The sky didn’t fall when the Supreme Court went live (opinion)
I’ve argued dozens of cases in front of federal appeals courts. From a lawyer’s perspective, it’s not ideal to argue a case over a phone line. There is no substitute for being in the courtroom, for standing at a podium in front of (and, literally, below) the presiding judges.
A lawyer can and must read the room, watch how judges react, see their body language and facial expressions, catch the inflection in the questions asked. A subtly raised eyebrow, a quick nod, a raised hand or a quizzical look from a judge can send a powerful signal, for better or worse.
This is about more than an upgrade in technology. This is about transparency, accountability and public accessibility. The Supreme Court is, of course a public entity, and its work is of enormous importance. So why should it do its public business where only a few hundred lucky and determined people can see the process in action?
Now, with the coronavirus changing virtually everything about our country, it’s time to drop the quill pens and dial into the conference call. It may seem beneath outdated notions of the court’s dignity, but it’s the right — and, in a sense, only — decision for these extraordinary times.