D.C. Appeals Court to Stream Oral Arguments

In a victory for court access advocates, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will start live streaming audio of oral arguments beginning with the 2018-2019 term.

That is according to Chief Judge Merrick Garland, who said Wednesday (May 23) that the court had voted to live stream all arguments, except those dealing with classified or sealed matters.The D.C. circuit has primary jurisdiction over government agency decision challenges, including the FCC. That is the court that will hear oral argument in the challenge to the FCC's network neutrality rules and is currently considering whether to overturn the FCC's UHF discount decision.

“[T]his is an important additional step in bringing transparency to our proceedings," said Garland in announcing the policy change. 

The new streaming policy will take effect Sept. 5, according to court spokesperson Betsy Paret. And why the decision to stream live? Paret said that it started as an "on request" policy last year but that given how many requests there were, the court decided to make live streaming the default setting, as it were.

Last October, in response to a request from Fix the Court, Judge Garland wrote in a one-sentence letter to executive director Gabe Roth, that the court would stream Garza v. Hargan, the first case the court agreed to stream. 

Fix the Court and C-SPAN have been vocal advocates for opening up the courts to the electronic public.

Recordings of oral arguments have been available online since September 2013 and recordings of the new live streams will be available at 2 p.m. on the day of argument.

"I think the D.C. Circuit decision shows the process other courts can follow, starting with same-day audio, then live streaming on request for major cases, then live streaming for all cases, should the judges support that policy," said Roth.

"This is good news for the idea that courts should be as accessible to the public as are Congress and the Executive," said C-SPAN general counsel Bruce Collins. "C-SPAN will carry this important court's oral arguments, and as we do we will look forward to the day the US Supreme Court follows its example."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.