US Supreme Court’s Break with Tradition a Laudable Undertaking

Published on
May 7, 2020

With COVID-19 continuing to disrupt legal proceedings around the world, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument by teleconference on Monday, May 4, a first in the court’s 230-year history. The hearing was also broadcast live for the first time.

The Supreme Court of Canada has adjourned all hearings until sometime in June 2020. While the SCC already webcasts most of its courtroom proceedings live, which are later televised by the Canadian Parliamentary Affairs Channel, it is yet to adopt remote hearings.

The USSC’s decision to live broadcast the teleconferenced hearing follows many years of activists and lawmakers unsuccessfully lobbying the court to make this change. The unique challenges of COVID-19 seemingly persuaded the justices to reform, at least temporarily, their use of digital technologies.

This break with tradition is to be commended, and, if possible, replicated, as professions worldwide struggle to adjust to the impact of the pandemic.