Washington — The typically technology-averse Supreme Court will break new ground Monday when it conducts arguments remotely by telephone conference and streams live audio for the press and public for the first time, allowing the masses to experience what an event usually reserved for members of the public who choose to wait in line to gain access to the court’s stately courtroom.
The court, like other millions of Americans, government institutions and businesses, has altered the way it conducts its proceedings to comply with public health guidelines implemented to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
As part of those efforts, the court canceled its oral arguments scheduled to be in March and April and will instead hold arguments telephonically for 10 cases over the first two weeks of May. Among the legal battles set to be heard remotely are over subpoenas for President Trump’s financial records, faithless electors and the Electoral College, and .
Kicking off the historic two weeks is a dispute between the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Booking.com over a bid by the online reservation company to trademark the name.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refused registration because the term “booking” is generic and said the addition of “.com” did not create a protectable mark. Booking.com sought review of the decision from a federal district court in Virginia, which ruled in favor of the company. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.
Two women will be the first to test the court’s new method for hearing arguments — seasoned Supreme Court litigator Lisa Blatt is arguing for Booking.com, and Erica Ross of the Solicitor General’s Office at the Justice Department for the government.
The arguments will be a far cry from the free-for-all of questions that criss-cross the nine-member bench. Instead, the justices will ask questions one-by-one in order of seniority. That means Chief Justice John Roberts will start the one-hour argument session, followed by Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ginsburg is usually the first to raise a question during oral arguments while Thomas typically does not ask any questions at all.