The Supreme Court will allow the release to the public of the audiotape recordings of the health care arguments on the same day as those hearings are held, it announced Friday, citing “the extraordinary public interest in these cases.” As usual, the written transcripts will also be available on a same-day basis. However, while the statement did not mention it, there will be no live coverage of the hearings — either audio or visual — under the Court’s long-standing ban on live transmissions. The news release can be found here.
The Court will hold six hours of argument, spread over three days — March 26, 27 and 28 — dealing with four separate issues about the Affordable Care Act. The announcement Friday marked a change — probably for these cases only — in the current policy of releasing audiotapes of arguments as a group on the Friday of any week of arguments. Written transcripts have long been available on a same-day basis.
For the health care cases, the Court had been asked by news organizations and others to change its policy, at least to allow same-day release of the audiotapes, but some also had asked that the Court permit live audio and/or visual coverage. Some in Congress have been pondering efforts to try to force the Court to open its proceedings for cameras and live audio coverage, but within the Court community, there is considerable doubt whether Congress constitutionally could do that. In any event, Friday’s announcement seems to close the debate on live coverage, at least for purposes of the health care arguments.
The announcement said that the audiotapes would be available as soon as digital files are loaded on the Court’s website, estimating that that would occur by no later than 2 p.m. for morning arguments (on all three days) and no later than 4 p.m. for the one afternoon argument, on March 28. Within the text of the announcement is the link to the Court’s website, www.supremecourt.gov — open to anyone with a computer to access both the recordings and the written transcripts. With the release of the audiotapes, various broadcasting organizations will carry the recordings. Immediately after the announcement, the C-SPAN cable network announced that it would broadcast the tapes on C-SPAN 3, C-SPAN Radio and C-SPAN.org “as soon as they are released.”
The legal filings in the cases are all available on SCOTUSblog. The Court’s website provides links to some of the filings on that website, as well as to the American Bar Association’s online file of the written materials.