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Citing Our Work, Sens. Grassley and Leahy Ask Chief Justice Roberts for Same-Audio for All Arguments

Sens. Chuck Grassley and Pat Leahy have sent a letter to Chief Justice Roberts asking that the audio of all oral arguments next term be released on an expedited – i.e., same-day – basis.

Citing Fix the Court data, the senators write that such a move would lead to greater “appreciation of – and confidence in – the rule of law that safeguards our constitutional system.” We couldn’t agree more.

Reaction from FTC executive director Gabe Roth:

I’m appreciative that in the face of what’s expected to be a contentious confirmation hearing later this summer, Judiciary Committee heavyweights from both parties have come together to make this request.

As Sens. Grassley and Leahy point out, every other federal appeals court in the country releases argument audio more quickly than the Supreme Court, and there’s no reason for the justices to continue their antiquated end-of-week audio policy.

With our political branches and our country so polarized, granting the public expedited access to hour-long lessons in civics and collegiality seems prudent.

Text of the letter:

Dear Chief Justice Roberts:

As the Supreme Court has completed its spring 2018 term, we write to urge the Court to release same-day audio recordings of all oral arguments commencing with its October 2018 term. Headlines across the country demonstrate how deeply interested the American public is in the proceedings of our Nation’s highest court.  Providing same-day audio recordings of all oral arguments would empower Americans to become more informed participants in our system of government.

As you know, given the heightened public attention to the issues at stake, the Court agreed to provide same-day audio recordings for the recently decided Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, et al. v. Hawaii, et al, No. 17-965 (2018). By providing same-day audio for oral arguments in this case, the Court demonstrated its technical capacity to provide prompt disclosure and transparency to the American public. We believe there is no reason why Americans should have to wait several days to hear the audio recordings of oral arguments in other matters before the Court.

Transparency should be the rule, not the exception. We note that the Court’s current practice of posting audio recordings at the end of each week stands in stark contrast to the practice of nearly every other federal circuit, some of which provide live-streaming of oral arguments to listeners across the country and around the world.[1]  Our federal circuits have proven that modern technology makes audio-recording—and even live audio-streaming—minimally intrusive to the functioning of a courtroom.

By releasing same-day audio recordings of all oral arguments, the Court has a unique opportunity to open up its proceedings beyond the select few who will ever have the chance to be physically present during arguments. Most importantly, the American public will grow in its appreciation of—and confidence in—the rule of law that safeguards our constitutional system.

We urge you to consider our request, and to bear in mind those who would benefit most from this simple, yet meaningful, measure of transparency.


Charles E. Grassley
Senate Judiciary Committee

Patrick Leahy
Senate Judiciary Committee

[1] Judicial Wellness and Broadcast Media Policies in Federal Appeals Courts, Fix the Court, February 2018,

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