The US Supreme Court announced Monday that it will resume announcing its opinions in person from the bench – a tradition that was suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic, when decisions were simply posted on the court’s website.
The new guidance is applicable to next year, as there are no opinions expected until January.
The change will be a welcome one to those court watchers who appreciate hearing the justices synopsize their rulings and believe that when the court issues an opinion, it is best practice to appear in person and explain the reasoning from the bench.
Last term, when the justices handed down several closely divided cases, the public wasn’t able to hear the dissenters read parts of their opinions from the bench.
“For decades, Justices have used the ability to read dissenting opinions from the bench as a way of signaling especially serious or significant disagreements with the majority, and, in some cases, to even express sentiments not reflected in their written opinions,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
“It’s a small but significant way in which the Justices have been able to communicate with the public, but it’s only possible when the Court is handing down decisions from the bench – something it hasn’t done since March 2020,” he said.
Typically, the justices don’t read their entire opinions when they read from the bench. But sometimes they can take several minutes to outline key points. In public appearances, some justices have explained that they only read dissents aloud when they think the majority has gone egregiously wrong.
In an appearance this fall, liberal Justice Elena Kagan said that although she has only publicly read a dissent in a handful of cases, there were a few last term that would have prompted her to speak up.
Unlike oral arguments, the court does not allow a live audio feed. That’s largely because the synopsis is not pre-approved by all members of the court.
Those recordings are only available from the National Archives at the start of the next term.
Read the full article here