UPDATE, 2:30 p.m.: C-SPAN president Susan Swain offered this reaction to the Court's new policy of posting argument audio on Fridays, which means an end to the prior policy of selective same-day release : “While we applaud the Court’s new policy, which helps advance the cause of greater public access to the institution, we do regret that it comes at the expense of occasional same-day release of arguments in cases with heightened public interest. Reporting on these key cases will be out for several days before the public is able to hear the arguments for themselves, in the Justices’ own words. We continue to hope that the Court’s next step will be same-day release of all oral arguments, and ultimately, television coverage of its public sessions.”
The Supreme Court just announced that starting next week, it will post the audio of all its oral arguments on the Friday after they occur. Since it only hears arguments on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, that means the release will be several days after the fact, making it of little use for contemporary reports by the news media.
Court public information officer Kathy Arberg said this morning that the Court's goal was to "provide the audio directly to the public, free of cost, and it significantly accelerates the release." She declined to say why the Court saw fit to delay release until Fridays, a move that virtually ensures the justices' voices won't turn up in news reports except in Sunday talk shows or later when the decision is released.
The Court's new plan comes after a term in which it rejected, without explanation, all seven requests for same-day release of audio of high-profile oral arguments. Starting in 2000, the Court had allowed same-day release in a handful of cases almost every term at the request of the media, a boon to broadcasters who were able to supplement their same-day reports with the voices of the justices. But last term, none were released, causing speculation that one or more justices had turned against the idea.
Numerous other courts, federal and state, routinely post the audio of arguments on their web sites, often immediately. The Supreme Court's audio will be posted at the Court's web site. The Court began taping oral arguments in 1955, but they were only made available to the public after the end of each term at the National Archives. The Court's announcement today notes that the Archives will "will continue to be the official repository for the Court's audio recordings."
The justices have been under pressure from Congress in recent years to allow video and audio access to its proceedings, but they have resisted, offering instead incremental steps short of broadcast -- including same day release of printed transcripts -- in hopes of staving off what they view as congressional intrusion.