Monday, June 4, 2018
Over the past two weeks there have been a few prominent stories on oral arguments. These stories were featured in the Weekly Roundup, but I wanted to elaborate on them a bit more.
The first story concerns the D.C. Circuit's decision to live-stream the audio of oral arguments. Danny noted the D.C. Circuit's announcement in the May 25 Weekly Roundup. In short, the D.C. Circuit has provided recordings of oral arguments since September 2013. However, now they will live-stream arguments (barring any sort of "classified or sealed matters."). This is great news! Honestly, the federal courts are way behind on live-streaming. Nearly two years ago I blogged on state efforts to live-stream arguments. Many states live-stream more than just audio--they include video as well. As a teacher of appellate advocacy, having my students watch oral arguments is a great teaching tool. Those arguments don't always have to be live, but it does add a nice element. For practitioners, the ability to listen or watch an argument from the office, rather than heading down to the courthouse, saves those precious billable hours. Kudos to Chief Judge Garland for making this happen!
The second story, which Dan mentioned in the June 1 Weekly Roundup, is a story from the National Law Journal on the decline of oral arguments in the circuits. While I wasn't able to pull up the NLJ article, on May 31 the New York Law Journal posted an article on the same subject. According to the article:
The most recent year statistics available from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts—the 12-month period ending Sep., 30, 2017—had just 6,913 arguments out of the 34,561 appeals decided on the merits. That 20 percent is a far cry from the 27.3 percent of all cases a decade ago (8,662 arguments heard), and an even more steep decline from the 40.1 percent of cases (10,357 arguments heard) just 20 years ago—when oral argument data became available from the Administrative Office.
The article does a nice job of highlighting the arguments for and against oral argument. In a nutshell--oral argument is expensive, time consuming, and not always helpful. On the other, oral argument is an important bench/bar relationship and can help clarify judicial misperceptions in a case.
It will be fascinating to see if argument numbers continue to decline.