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Media Groups Ask Supreme Court to Continue Live Audio Access

(Image credit: United States Supreme Court)

WASHINGTON—A coalition of media and law groups do not want to see the Supreme Court take a step backwards in terms of transparency, requesting that the nation’s highest court continue the practice of allowing for live audio access when its new term begins in October.

A request was made directly to Chief Justice John Roberts via a letter as the Supreme Court heads into its annual summer recess.

The Supreme Court had long resisted calls to offer live broadcast feeds of any kind on its proceedings, only allowing for a few in attendance or providing recorded audio clips to be aired afterward. However, when the pandemic forced the court to move to remote proceedings, it announced that it would make a live audio feed available to the public. The result was Americans getting the chance to better understand the deliberations and thoughtfulness of the justices, according to the group’s letter, as both the court and broadcasters offered the audio feeds.

“Real-time broadcasts not only give the public direct access to an engaging, intellectual bench; they also diminish the ability of partisan interests to color a case in ways that serve narrow ends,” the letter reads. “They offer civic lessons that cannot be replicated under the old rules, where only 50 to 100 members of the public gain entry to an argument and with audio released on Fridays being of limited use in the modern-day news cycle.

“Live audio helps America understand the Supreme Court,” it continues. “We believe that if continued, it will benefit the institution—and the civic health of the country—immensely.”

The letter was signed by the American Society of Magazine Editors, Fix the Court, Free Law Project, Government Information Watch, National Press Foundation, National Press Photographers Association, National Security Counselors, News Leaders Associations, Niskanen Center, Open the Government, Project on Government Oversight, R Street Institute, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Society of Professional Journalists and Tully Center at Syracuse University.

There has been push in years past to also allow cameras into the Supreme Court for live coverage, but there is no mention of that in this letter.

The Supreme Court’s new term is slated to begin on the first Monday of October.

The full letter is available online.