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Appeals Court Grapples with DACA on Live TV, and No One Grandstands or Does Back-Flips

By Tyler Cooper, Fix the Court senior researcher

When the Second Circuit panel took the bench this morning for oral arguments in one of the DACA cases, it did so to a larger audience than it normally draws.

In addition to those in the regular seating area inside the courtroom and those in two overflow rooms watching on CCTV, there were also hundreds, if not thousands, of others watching from their homes or work via C-SPAN’s livestreaming of the proceedings.

The attorneys for the Trump administration were allotted 30 minutes at the start, and the second half of the argument was split between attorneys for the State of New York and for the DACA recipients.

The day opened with an “off-the-clock” question coming from the bench regarding how the partial government shutdown was or was not effecting the attorneys for the government.

“Can you explain to us what the theory is, how this works?” Judge Robert Sack (sitting on the left in the photo at right) asked the government attorney.

“I wish I could your honor,” replied the DOJ’s Mark Stern. “I’d be reluctant to go there. I’m hoping to have better answers to the other questions you’ll have.”

Both the attorney and judge laughed, and from there, all involved went about the business at hand, as each side made its case: the government stressing its ability to rescind a prior executive branch program and the respondents citing examples of irreparable harm from the program’s cancelation.

The C-SPAN cameras, meanwhile, did not have any noticeable or deleterious effects, as the proceeding was courteous and collegial. Possibly related to the presence of cameras, and possibly not, the panel of judges allowed the attorneys to go over their allotted time to fully grapple with their questions and the issues involved. In the end, the hearing did run about 20 minutes longer than initially scheduled.

If today was any indication, there’s nothing lost – and much gained – in opening up the most powerful, least accountable part of our government.

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