Supreme Court makes history holding arguments via phone in midst of coronavirus pandemic

Washington D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – The highest court in the land is making adjustments during the coronavirus crisis – and making history while they do it.

It’s rare to hear these three words in real time: “Oyez, oyez, oyez.”

But on Monday, for the first time in history, the Supreme Court broadcast its proceeding live.

“We’ll hear argument this morning in case 1946,” Chief Justice John Roberts said.

Instead of meeting in person during the coronavirus pandemic, the justices are hearing arguments by phone. They’re also allowing anyone to listen along.

“This is really a historic event,” George Washington University Law Professor Paul Schiff Berman said Monday.

The law professor said the Supreme Court has almost always met in person. But with the number of coronavirus cases in the Washington D.C. area still on the rise, the court is taking precautions.

“I think the justices are aware of the health risks from the pandemic,” Schiff Berman said.

Monday’s case was just the first of 10 cases that will be heard over the phone during the next two weeks while the Supreme Court building itself remains closed.

“The Supreme Court has taken a giant step forward,” Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) said Monday.

Butterfield served as a judge in his home state and said he salutes the court for allowing the public to hear their live deliberations.

“There’s nothing more important than for the public to have confidence in court proceedings,” he said.

While members of Congress return to Washington this week, the justices will be starting their new tradition and – like many of us – working safely at home.

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