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The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined a group of newsrooms and advocacy organizations to call for permanent live audio access to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Providing live audio access to cases during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has convincingly demonstrated the public’s appetite to observe the operations of the Court,” the groups wrote in a Sept. 8 letter. “It has also shown that the Court can balance increased public access with the integrity of its proceedings.”
In their letter — drafted by the Project on Open Government — NEFAC and others explained that when the court is typically open only 50 to 100 members of the general public are able to attend in-person oral arguments for each case.
To accommodate COVID-19-related restrictions, the court in May 2020 allowed a live audio feed which allowed more than 130,000 people to stream the arguments. As of this month, the groups wrote, oral arguments from the May 2020 session have been streamed more than 2 million times.
According to the letter:
The demonstrated public interest in these audio broadcasts confirms that the time has come for regular, live access to the Court’s proceedings. The public interest in keeping live audio access to oral arguments outweighs any potential logistical challenge in offering the same streaming opportunities when the Justices return to the Court in person. Limiting real-time access to the Court to those with the ability and means to travel to Washington, DC, and to wait in line for hours, even overnight, makes the Court inaccessible to most Americans. Every member of the public deserves the same access to what’s happening in these cases before the Court.
This is the third time in three years that NEFAC and fellow advocates have called for more public access to the U.S. Supreme Court. First, in 2019 and again in 2020.
NEFAC regularly writes and joins advocacy letters in cases involving First Amendment freedoms and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.
The coalition is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. Learn more about how NEFAC is helping communities throughout New England.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.
Major Supporters of NEFAC include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Paul and Ann Sagan, The Boston Globe, WBUR, Boston University, the Robertson Foundation and the Academy of New England Journalists.