Fix the Court Report: Majority of State Supreme Courts Stream Arguments

Thirty-three out of 50 top state courts agree, virtual arguments are the way to keep the gavel's banging in the age of COVID-19. 

That is according to Fix the Court, which said its survey of the 50 state (appeals) courts of last resort found that 22 have already conducted remote hearings, 20 of them live (since mid-March), using conference technology including WebEx and Zoom, while 11 more plan to do so shortly, 10 of those expected to be live.

The remaining 17 canceled arguments or are deciding how to handle them in the age of social distancing and COVID-19. 

The Supreme Court has decided to hold virtual oral arguments next month--after cancelling them the previous two months. 

According to a report of state Supreme Courts compiled by Fix the Court, 15 of them have livestreamed argument video since President Trump declared a national emergency March 13. They are Alaska, Arizona, California, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia.  

Five more have livestreamed audio, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Virginia. 

The ones signaling they will join the AV club: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin (live video); South Dakota and Wyoming (live audio). 

“With the the country adapting to working remotely and using online platforms that facilitate face-to-face meetings, state supreme courts should be no different,” FTC executive director Gabe Roth said in a statement. “Luckily, the top judges in most states are donning their robes from a safe distance and are hearing arguments via Zoom, WebEx and other remote platforms, while allowing the public to watch or listen in live. The federal judiciary could learn a lot from them.” 

The report was prompted by the Supreme Court's decision to stream 10 hours of oral argument audio next month and will reportedly work with C-SPAN to provide that stream to the public. 

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.