News & Politics

The Supreme Court’s Most Consequential Term in Decades Starts Today, and It’s Easier Than Ever to Listen In

You can finally listen to oral arguments on the court's website.

A pro-life demonstration outside the court on Monday. Photograph by Evy Mages

The US Supreme Court’s eventful October 2021 term begins today, October 4. The justices will hear cases that involve hot-button topics in US life like abortion, gun laws, and the death penalty amid a backdrop of record dissatisfaction among Americans about the court and a growing push from the left to expand the court, to which former President Trump added three conservatives.

And you can listen live.

The court’s building remains closed to the public over Covid concerns (indeed, Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh will work from home this week because he tested positive for Covid, despite being fully vaccinated and showing no symptoms). But the court, which has long resisted the imposition of TV cameras so Americans could watch its work, has expanded the pandemic-era program that allowed people to listen in to oral arguments. Now you can listen in via the court’s website, which offers a prominent “LIVE” button under its daily schedule.

Does this mean the court might someday allow cameras? There doesn’t seem to be much appetite among the justices for such an advance in transparency: Associate Justices Elena Kagan and Samuel Alito both argued against it in 2019: Kagan said she thought cameras on oral arguments would cause the justices to “filter ourselves in ways that would be unfortunate” and Alito said he thought it would “undermine [arguments’] value to us as a step in the decision-making process.”

 

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.