Can You Hear Me Now?

The public’s access to the U.S. Supreme Court has been a hot topic during the past few years, including the court’s relatively recent decision to abolish “line-standing” and its ongoing opposition to allowing cameras to broadcast or record oral arguments. One trusted and inexpensive avenue inside the nation’s highest court recently faced a perilous future after serving the public for more than 20 years.

The Oyez Project was founded in 1993 as a free repository of Supreme Court oral arguments dating back to the 1950s. Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor Jerry Goldman started the Oyez Project by reproducing Supreme Court audio files collected by the National Archives and hosting them for free online. The group’s website reportedly has more than 9 million visitors every year. Goldman’s recent decision to retire put the Oyez Project in jeopardy, but an agreement with Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute and the online legal publisher Justia promises to keep the recordings available to the public for many years to come.

Although listening to audio of a Supreme Court argument isn’t the same as being in the courtroom personally, it does provide a relatively simple, no-cost means for the public to hear how the country’s top court does its business, which is a good thing. As we’ve said on this blog many times before, the public’s confidence in our justice system is largely dependent on people being able to see (or hear) for themselves exactly how the system works.

Until we can turn on our TVs or personal computers and see Supreme Court arguments in real time, the Oyez Project represents the best available option.  We owe a debt of gratitude to both Cornell and Justia for helping keep the window to the court open for the rest of us.

Posted: 6/24/2016 3:23:27 PM by TCLE Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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