Ohio Supreme Court Takes Historic Step And Hears Oral Arguments Remotely

Apr 7, 2020

The Ohio Supreme Court had a historic session on Tuesday – oral arguments were conducted remotely.

“I’m Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. Welcome to our court session today.”

That's how O’Connor opened today's session of oral arguments for four cases, explaining she and the other justices were all in their separate chambers in the Supreme Court building in Columbus, and would hear from attorneys via videoconference. The whole proceeding aired live on the Ohio Channel, which broadcasts and archives all of the Court's sessions.

“Courts must be open and accessible to the public, even in a crisis such as this," O'Connor said.

From there, it was almost business as usual – introductions and statements, and questions from justices, with a few glitches with sound and video but mostly seamless.

The court will hear four more cases remotely on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has postponed oral arguments, saying it will "consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the courtroom before the end of the court term."

The U.S. Supreme Court does not have live TV coverage, which advocates have long hoped to see. Some federal courts have done this, but as NPR's Nina Totenberg reports, "most court observers believe that would be too unwieldy for a court with nine members, eight of whom ask as many as 75 or more questions altogether in a half hour of argument."