Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley, Leahy Seek Same-Day Audio of All Supreme Court Arguments

Jul 02, 2018

WASHINGTON Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) urged the Supreme Court of the United States to release same-day audio recordings of all arguments heard before the high court.

“By releasing same-day audio recordings of all oral arguments, the Court has a unique opportunity to open up its proceedings beyond the select few who will ever have the chance to be physically present during arguments. Most importantly, the American public will grow in its appreciation of—and confidence in—the rule of law that safeguards our constitutional system,” Grassley and Leahy wrote.

In a letter sent Friday to Chief Justice John Roberts, the senators argued for greater transparency in the court’s work and noted its clear capacity to release same-day audio citing the recent public release of arguments in Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, et al. v. Hawaii, et al.

Grassley has long advocated for greater transparency in the federal Judiciary, including the Supreme Court, and has worked with Senator Leahy on a number of bipartisan transparency efforts in the Senate. For example, he introduced – and Leahy cosponsored – legislation to allow television cameras to cover federal court proceedings to advance the public’s understanding of and appreciation for the judicial branch of government.

Full text of the letter from Grassley and Leahy to the Chief Justice follows.

June 29, 2018

The Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr.

Chief Justice of the United States

Supreme Court of the United States

Washington, DC 20543

 

Dear Chief Justice Roberts:

 

As the Supreme Court has completed its spring 2018 term, we write to urge the Court to release same-day audio recordings of all oral arguments commencing with its October 2018 term. Headlines across the country demonstrate how deeply interested the American public is in the proceedings of our Nation’s highest court.  Providing same-day audio recordings of all oral arguments would empower Americans to become more informed participants in our system of government.

As you know, given the heightened public attention to the issues at stake, the Court agreed to provide same-day audio recordings for the recently decided Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, et al. v. Hawaii, et al, No. 17-965 (2018). By providing same-day audio for oral arguments in this case, the Court demonstrated its technical capacity to provide prompt disclosure and transparency to the American public. We believe there is no reason why Americans should have to wait several days to hear the audio recordings of oral arguments in other matters before the Court.

Transparency should be the rule, not the exception. We note that the Court’s current practice of posting audio recordings at the end of each week stands in stark contrast to the practice of nearly every other federal circuit, some of which provide live-streaming of oral arguments to listeners across the country and around the world.[1]  Our federal circuits have proven that modern technology makes audio-recording—and even live audio-streaming—minimally intrusive to the functioning of a courtroom.  

By releasing same-day audio recordings of all oral arguments, the Court has a unique opportunity to open up its proceedings beyond the select few who will ever have the chance to be physically present during arguments. Most importantly, the American public will grow in its appreciation of—and confidence in—the rule of law that safeguards our constitutional system.                                                                                                                                  

We urge you to consider our request, and to bear in mind those who would benefit most from this simple, yet meaningful, measure of transparency.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Grassley

Chairman

Senate Judiciary Committee

 

Patrick Leahy

Member

Senate Judiciary Committee

 

[1] Judicial Wellness and Broadcast Media Policies in Federal Appeals Courts, Fix the Court, February 2018, https://fixthecourt.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Audio-video-wellness-policies-in-federal-appeals-courts-Feb.-2018.pdf.

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