The Volokh Conspiracy

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So Far, the Supreme Court's Hybrid Oral Argument Format Is Working Well

And Justice Thomas asked the first question of the plaintiff and defendant.


Happy First Monday everyone! And a very happy day it is for those who favor transparency of the Court. If you visit now, you will see a new feature: "Live Oral Argument Audio."

Click that link, and a box will pop up with the livestream. This stream comes directly from the Supreme Court. Last year, C-SPAN broadcasted a conference call line. But now everything is handled internally. The audio quality sounds excellent–other than Justice Kavanaugh's staticky landline.

More importantly, the hybrid format is working well. It is so refreshing to hear the natural flow of arguments out of order. Justice Breyer had a delightful hypothetical about stealing San Francisco fog and bringing it to Colorado. Justice Gorsuch followed up on Justice Sotomayor's line of questioning. And, for those curious, Justice Thomas asked the very first questions for the plaintiff and defendant. The Justices must have reached some agreement to let Thomas go first. That way, he would not need to interrupt anyone. He seems prepared to continue his active questioning. There were a few awkward moments. At two points, Justice Kavanaugh tried to jump in, but he was interrupted. Chief Justice Roberts called on Kavanaugh to proceed.

Finally, I think adding reserved time at the end is a beneficial addition. The Chief went through the line, asking if anyone had new questions. Justice Gorsuch did. He asked several times whether the plaintiffs intended to actually file a motion to leave to seek equitable apportionment. The lawyer resisted the question. But Gorsuch only had the chance to push this issue because extra time was added at the end.

So far, so good. At this point, I do not think the Court can go back. Live-streaming of audio is here to stay. And welcome to Gail Curly, the new Marshall of the Court.