Supreme Court to kick off new term remotely with telephone arguments

Washington — The Supreme Court will begin its new term, which starts in October, with oral arguments held remotely by telephone due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the court announced Wednesday.

Arguments scheduled for the month of October will follow the same format used for telephonic arguments held in May, in which the typical free-for-all of questioning was replaced by the justices pressing attorneys one by one in order of seniority. Chief Justice John Roberts will kick off questioning, followed by Justices Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and ending with Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court’s newest member.

Live audio will be provided as it was for arguments held remotely in May, which marked the first time the Supreme Court provided real-time audio to the public. The court said it “will continue to closely monitor public health guidance in determining plans for the November and December argument sessions.”

The coronavirus pandemic roiled the final weeks of the Supreme Court’s term, causing the high court to cancel in-person arguments scheduled for March and April. Some of the cases that were set to be heard in its last term were rescheduled and will be argued next month, when the justices convene the new term. But the high court heard arguments in 10 legal battles by telephone in a rare May session, including three involving subpoenas for President Trump’s tax returns and a pair of cases involving so-called faithless electors.

The Supreme Court earned high marks for its live-streamed arguments, and judicial advocacy groups as well as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle urged the high court to make real-time audio a permanent fixture of oral arguments.

The justices are set to hear 10 cases in October, including a copyright dispute between Oracle and Google. The court will also consider a legal battle over Obamacare on November 10, one week after the general election.