Court Battles

Supreme Court draws giggles on social media after toilet flush heard on conference call

Greg Nash

The Supreme Court’s experiment with conducting oral arguments by phone enjoyed a virtually unblemished record until Wednesday, when a flushing sound could be heard on the call.

The very audible sound, which appeared to be a toilet flushing, occurred while Roman Martinez, an attorney for the American Association of Political Consultants, addressed the justices.

While it’s unclear who the offending party was, Twitter users of all stripes — lawyers, laymen and even the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — responded with jokes about the breach of decorum that befell the staid institution amid high-minded debate over a telecommunications law.

“To be clear, the @FCC does not construe the flushing of a toilet immediately after counsel said ‘what the FCC has said’ to reflect a substantive judgment of the Supreme Court, or of any Justice thereof, regarding an agency determination. #SCOTUS,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai tweeted.

Wednesday’s free speech case, which pits a political consulting trade group against the federal government, concerns whether a 1991 law that imposes a general ban on automated phone calls can lawfully carve out an exception for government debt collection.

The Supreme Court this week broke with tradition and held oral arguments by conference call, a first for the famously tech-averse tribunal as the justices adapt to the global pandemic.

Tags Oral arguments Supreme Court

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