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Members of House and Senate Call for Same-Day Audio in April 25 Travel Ban Case at SCOTUS

Hoping for first expedited release since Obergefell in 2015

With national attention returning to the Supreme Court next month for arguments in Trump v. Hawaii, transparency advocates and leading members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees have penned letters to Chief Justice John Roberts requesting an expedited audio release of the April 25 hearing.

In their letter to Roberts, Chairman Ted Cruz and Ranking Member Mazie Hirono of the SJC Subcommittee on the Constitution tied the heightened interest in this case to that in D.C. v. Heller and Obergefell v. Hodges, both of which were given same-day audio treatment.

In theirs, open government advocates Reps. Mike Quigley and Gerry Connolly joined leaders in the House Judiciary Committee, including the ranking member, Rep. Jerry Nadler; the ranking member of the Courts Subcommittee, Rep. Hank Johnson; and the ranking member of the Immigration Subcommittee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, in writing that “direct and timely access to this case means more citizens will have the opportunity to experience [it] firsthand.”

Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth praised the congressional initiative. “I’m pleased that leading members of the committees of jurisdiction are looking to improve transparency at the high court. Granting same-day audio access, as the justices have done 26 times prior, would be an act consistent with other modernization steps Chief Justice Roberts has implemented in recent years that increase openness, from permitting e-filing to releasing financial disclosures digitally,” he said.

“As of this January, all other federal appeals courts in the U.S. release argument audio within hours, not several days, of their hearings,” Roth added. “The highest court should do the same.”

When earlier versions of this case were before the Fourth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals last year, judges on those panels permitted live audio, which was a first for the Fourth Circuit. The last time the high court granted same-day audio was on April 28, 2015, in Obergefell. 

Both the House and Senate letters state that the court already acknowledged the heightened public interest in the travel ban case when its press office posted a limited-seating media advisory last fall for an earlier iteration of the suit. The same advisory was posted, the letters note, “for other high-profile arguments this term on cloud computing, public sector unions, First Amendment rights, sports betting, cell tower data and gerrymandering.”

“Roberts has said his reasoning for not allowing same-day audio is that it would signal some high court cases are more important than others, yet that’s exactly what his press office seems to be doing,” Roth concluded.

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