High court opening its doors to public on non-argument days
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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is opening up its arguments to the public for the first time Wednesday morning.
The justices will take up three cases that could affect the rights of Americans. The high court will hear arguments in two of them; the justices will not decide on the case involving the federal government’s mandate on small employers to provide workers with health insurance.
The high court also will consider a case involving the National Security Agency’s surveillance of phone calls and Internet communications as well as a case challenging a California law for which the state was ordered to pay a $4.5 billion fine by a federal judge because of its alleged violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech.
The justices will hold their public arguments in a conference room of the Senate chamber, giving lawyers, the press, and the public a chance to see the justices as they hear the arguments for their cases, in preparation for the highly anticipated oral arguments in October.
The Supreme Court’s arguments will be held in two private rooms — a meeting room of the House Judiciary Committee and an overflow room in the Capitol basement.
“If there are people out there who were not able to be there for Monday’s arguments and who have not been able to hear what they consider to be the most important arguments, then they will now be able to hear them,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
Wednesday’s session is designed to provide a live stream of the oral arguments and a way for the public to hear the justices when they are not in session. In all, justices will make their arguments, sometimes for as much as six hours, at two-hour intervals. They will answer questions from the audience, who can watch the argument in real time, according to those in attendance.
This is the first time in the court’s history that it has turned members into an audience, according to the Senate gallery.
‘A very, very big win’ “No one in this building believes that today will be the day that the Supreme Court goes down in history as perhaps the most important day in the history of this court and as the most significant ruling of one of the most significant periods,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in an announcement of the event.