Supreme Court Radio?

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Tony Mauro of the Legal Times broke a story yesterday about the U.S. Supreme Court releasing same-day audio of selected hearings to the broadcast media.

On April 29th, the Justices will hear arguments in a potentially-landmark voting rights case, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. The court has agreed to release audio of the oral arguments the same day.

This is a victory for the consortium of media companies that filed a request seeking same-day access to the audio. The group was led by C-SPAN and quickly joined by the major television broadcast networks. None of the radio giants signed onto the request. While many radio networks get their news from TV broadcast networks, it would be nice to see some radio powerhouses pushing for audio access to courts. Supreme Court Radio, anyone?

The value of same-day audio of oral arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court should be obvious to radio news producers — not to mention programmers of political talk radio shows. Usually, audio is not available until the following term. From the piece by Tony Mauro, which originally appeared on The BLT (The Blog of Legal Times):

Releasing the tapes on the same day, by contrast, gives broadcast media the chance to supplement their reports for the same or next day with actual excerpts of the arguments.

For some reason, the Justices do not release same-day audio routinely. It was last granted over a year ago. Again, from Tony Mauro at the Legal Times:

This term, C-SPAN has requested — and been denied — same-day access to the audio of seven other oral arguments…. The Court offers no explanation for why some requests are granted and others are denied.

We look forward to the day, hopefully soon, when we can hear live broadcasts of oral arguments directly from Supreme Court chambers — when there is no conflict with national security interests or other reasons to seal the proceedings.

Photo courtesy of Tjeerd, used under its Creative Commons license

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