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FTC, Former Sen. Feingold Request Video for Seventh Circuit Abortion Argument

Arguments will explore whether GOP-led state legislature may intervene in abortion case on behalf of Wisconsin’s new Dem. AG

Today Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth and former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) sent a letter to Chief Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit requesting that Friday’s argument in 19-1835, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Inc., et al., v. Joshua Kaul, et al., be video-recorded to provide greater access to those across the country concerned about the case.

“We believe that the public’s significant interest in the constitutional issues presented in this case,” wrote Feingold and Roth, “merits such a recording and that the public would benefit from direct, unfiltered access to the argument via video, which the Seventh Circuit has provided on previous occasions for closely watched arguments.”

Sen. Feingold has long been a supporter of greater transparency in the judiciary and often co-sponsored Senate bills that would have expanded broadcast access in appellate courts, including the Supreme Court.

This case stems a Wisconsin law that makes it more difficult for women in certain instances to obtain an abortion and prevents nurse practitioners from providing abortions. Friday’s appeal will discuss whether Republican leaders in the state legislature may intervene, since they do not trust the new Democratic attorney general (Kaul) to argue in favor of the law. Kaul has said he would so long as it’s on the books.

FTC takes no stance on the merits of the case but believes that its importance to citizens across the circuit, if not the country, makes broad access a prerogative – especially since this issue of who may intervene in charged cases will continue to crop up.

Background on video in federal courts:
Last year the Seventh Circuit became just the fourth federal appeals court to permit video but has only recorded two cases: 17-3565, Doe v. Purdue University, on Sept. 18, 2018, and 18-1737, Medical Protective Company of Ft. Wayne v. AIG, on Nov. 8, 2018. Since the ban on video-recording appellate arguments was lifted by the Judicial Conference in 1996, the Second Circuit has permitted C-SPAN to film an argument about once per year, most recently in January’s DACA termination case, 18-1521, Vidal v. Nielsen. The Ninth Circuit since 2013 has routinely livestreamed audio and video of its hearings and permitted video for certain arguments for more than a decade before that. Since 2017, the Third Circuit has video-recorded arguments and has posted links on its website.

“Appeals courts that have permitted video in the past should make it a common practice,” Roth added.

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