Today the U.S. Supreme Court finally yielded to accepting “modern” technology — telephonic hearings — and begin hearing oral arguments again in May. I guess video conferencing is still a bridge too far (probably for reasonable security reasons).
Telephonic hearings have been a common practice in courtrooms for decades. I don’t know why the court could not have simply done this back in March to keep to its schedule of oral arguments.
Amy Howe reports at SCOTUSblog, Court sets cases for May telephone arguments, will make live audio available:
The Supreme Court announced this morning that it will hear 10 oral arguments by telephone in May, in 13 cases that had previously been scheduled for argument in March and April but had been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a one-page press release, the justices indicated that argument dates over six days in early and mid-May will be assigned once the court is able to confirm the days on which the arguing lawyers are available. Both the justices and the lawyers will participate remotely, the press release declared, and the court “anticipates providing a live audio feed of these arguments to news media.” The court’s Public Information Office later confirmed that the court will provide live-audio access to the media – and that media access will be pooled – for both reporting and live-streaming purposes. This means that live audio of the arguments will be available to the public, an unprecedented move.
The 13 cases that will be slated for oral argument in May include several that are regarded as time-sensitive – most notably, the pair of cases challenging the constitutionality of state laws that penalize Electoral College delegates who do not vote for the presidential candidate they pledged to support, and the trio of cases involving efforts by Congress and a New York prosecutor’s office to seek the president’s financial records. Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas who had been scheduled to argue a pair of cases in March that were not included on today’s list, noted on Twitter that lawyers in the remaining  cases had been informed by the Supreme Court that those cases would be argued in the fall term.
Here is the full list of cases scheduled for argument in May, along with a short description of the issues involved in each one:
McGirt v. Oklahoma — Whether land that was set up in the 19th century as a reservation in eastern Oklahoma for the Creek Nation remains a reservation for purposes of a federal law that requires some major crimes committed on a reservation by or against Indians to be prosecuted as federal crimes.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com> – Whether the addition of “.com” to an otherwise generic term by an online business can create a protectable trademark.
Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International — Whether the federal government can require foreign affiliates of U.S.-based groups that receive federal funds to have policies expressly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.
Little Sisters of the Poor Sts. Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania and Trump v. Pennsylvania — Whether the expansion of the conscience exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control mandate violated the Affordable Care Act and the laws governing federal administrative agencies.
Chiafalo v. Washington — Whether state “faithless elector” laws, which require presidential electors to vote the way that state law directs, are constitutional.
Colorado Department of State v. Baca — Whether state “faithless elector” laws, which require presidential electors to vote the way that state law directs, are constitutional (Justice Sonia Sotomayor is recused).
Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants — Whether an exception for government-debt collection to a federal law that prohibits calls to cellphones using auto-dial systems or an artificial or prerecorded voice is constitutional.
Trump v. Vance – Whether the Manhattan district attorney can obtain the president’s tax returns as part of a state grand-jury investigation.
Trump v. Mazars and Trump v. Deutsche Bank— Whether congressional committees have the authority to issue subpoenas to the president’s accountant and creditors for financial records belonging to the president and his business entities.
I would anticipate that the court will not wrap up its term by the end of June this year, and will issue opinions into July.