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With Appeals Court Set to Hear ACA Challenge, Fix the Court, Allies Request Live Audio for the Oral Argument

The leaders of Fix the Court and two journalism associations are requesting a live audio stream of July 9 arguments in a major Fifth Circuit case on the Affordable Care Act.

In the letter Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth, Dallas-Fort Worth Association of Black Journalist president Cheryl Smith and the Radio Television Digital News Association executive director Dan Shelley urge Fifth Circuit Chief Judge Carl Stewart to provide live audio for oral arguments for 19- 10010, Texas et al v. United States, in the interest of transparency.

“We are greatly appreciative of the Fifth Circuit’s same-day audio policy,” they write, “but believe that the public’s significant interest in the issues presented in this case, as well as the importance of transparency and public access, merit live audio here.”

Read the full letter here.

“This case will have consequences far beyond the New Orleans courtroom in which it’s argued,” Roth said. “Federal appeals courts in Washington, Richmond and San Francisco have provided live-audio access in cases of national import, and I’m hopeful the Fifth Circuit follows suit.”

Texas et al v. United States questions the constitutionality of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act. A district court struck down the entire ACA in Dec. 2018, ruling that the individual mandate to purchase health insurance was not a tax because it no longer carried a penalty and was therefore no longer constitutional under the Interstate Commerce Clause.

Over the past few years, Fix the Court has drafted several letters to U.S. courts of appeals hoping to convince them to livestream argument audio for major cases and has been met with mixed success. The Fourth Circuit granted a livestream request for one of the travel ban cases, argued in Dec. 2017, while a livestream request for a Mar. 2019 Trump emoluments case was denied.

Roth and Nebraska Press Association executive director Allen Beermann asked the Eighth Circuit for live audio in 17- 2181, Kelsay v. Ernst, a significant qualified immunity case argued last month, but were denied because the court did not have “the capability of providing a live stream,” according to the clerk.

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