We did it! Well, this one major thing: as a direct result of our request, the D.C. Circuit livestreamed oral argument audio for the first time on Oct. 20.
As you know, most federal courts are far ahead of SCOTUS when it comes to both broadcast policies and wellness initiatives. And there’s still no live audio at SCOTUS, even though we know they have the capability. Earlier this fall a bipartisan group of congressmen asked SCOTUS for live audio for the Oct. 3 gerrymandering case but was rebuffed. We’ll likely try again for Dec. 5’s Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colo. Civil Rights Commission.
In terms of the other “fixes,” right now we’re working through some issues with the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Financial Disclosures. Though we convinced the committee to release the justices’ financial disclosure reports digitally for the first time ever this past spring (another big win), we haven’t received any of the lower federal judges’ reports we requested in May. So we let them know about it, and our sources tell us to expect a response later this week.
You may have seen that the newest justice recently spoke at Trump Hotel in D.C. We took a different tact from partisan groups (because we’re nonpartisan) to that event by first asking the Chief Justice, who himself avoids speaking at events in hotels owned by SCOTUS litigants, to establish clearer ethics guidelines for justices’ public appearances and, second, in a USA TODAY op-ed, by calling on the Republican-appointed justices to speak before liberal audiences and vice versa.
Also this month we sued USDOJ over a 2016 FOIA where we asked the U.S. Marshals Service for non-proprietary information about the justices’ security while they travel, the responsibility for which is shared between the marshals and the Supreme Court Police – and of which we know there are often yawning gaps in coverage. We believe the public should be confident the justices are well-protected both inside their building and when they venture out into the world, and we shouldn’t have to wait for a tragedy to ensure that modern security protocols have been implemented.
Finally, the Supreme Court is joining the rest of the federal judiciary and allowing electronic filing for petitions beginning on Nov. 13.
Here we come, the late ’90s!