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GOP, Democratic Reps. Issue Joint Request for Same-Day Audio in SCOTUS Census Case

House members cite “heightened interest” in letter to Chief Justice Roberts

The Supreme Court returns to the spotlight next week for arguments in Department of Commerce v. New York, and congressmen are reaching across the aisle to request an expedited audio release of the April 23 hearing. 

In a letter sent to Chief Justice Roberts Friday, Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Doug Collins (R-GA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Mike Johnson (R-LA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) ask the court to make the audio recording in the case available to the public online immediately after its conclusion.

“Same-day audio,” the congressmen wrote, “has proven a valuable resource for tens of thousands of Americans interested in listening to the Justices weigh the merits of a case in an unfiltered, unbiased and near-contemporaneous way.”

“Allowing prompt public access to a primary source like argument audio,” the congressmen added, “affords more Americans the ability to engage with its government, and though we acknowledge that oral arguments represent but a small portion of a case, a same-day audio release can effectively demonstrate to the public the Court’s diligence and collegiality when considering issues of national import.”

Following a request from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) last year, the Court posted an audio file of Trump v. Hawaii online about 45 minutes after the end of arguments.

Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth praised the congressional initiative. “I’m pleased that members of House Judiciary are looking to improve transparency at the Supreme Court. Immediate, or near-immediate, access to argument audio occurs elsewhere in the Court building, and there’s no reason the exclude the public at large from that resource. Consistent with other Court modernization policies, like online filing and digital financial disclosures, I hope these releases become routine,” he said.

The Court has permitted same-day audio 27 times previously, most recently in April 2018. At the end of last term, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Pat Leahy (D-VT) asked Chief Justice Roberts to permit same-day audio for all future arguments yet never received a formal response.

The census case concerns Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ decision to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 count. In response, 17 states, Washington, D.C., and six cities sued the Commerce Department. The case has gained a national profile in part because of the implications for redistricting and allocation of federal resources. In arguments to be held on April 23, the justices will consider the Southern District of New York’s decision to enjoin Secretary Ross from reinstating the question.

Last month, the Supreme Court acknowledged the broad attention garnered by the case by releasing a media advisory indicating that press seating would be limited, a positive omen for a same-day audio release.

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