The Supreme Court's decision to make audio tapes of its oral arguments available to the press and public on a weekly basis sounds like a win for journalists and organizations that have long pushed for greater access, but it turns out to be a double-edged sword, according to C-SPAN.
"Beginning with October Term 2010, the audio recordings of all oral arguments heard by the Supreme Court of the United States will be available free to the public on the Court's Web site, www.supremecourt.gov, at the end of each argument week," the courts said Tuesday. "The audio recordings will be posted on Fridays after Conference."
While the court agreed to make recordings available each Friday, it is discontinuing its policy of occasionally allowing same-day release of the tapes, a court spokesperson confirmed.
"The Court will discontinue the occasional practice of expediting the release of audio recordings prompted by requests from the media and based on the level of public interest," said Kathleen Arberg, public information officer for the court.
Why? In part, apparently, because it was tough to determine whether the public's interest in a case was high enough to justify the same-day release, which was a key factor in granting the requests. "The new practice will significantly accelerate access in all cases, provide direct access to the public, and it will eliminate the difficult task of assessing the public's interest," she said.
"While we applaud The Court's new policy, which helps advance the cause of greater public access to the institution, we do regret that it comes at the expense of occasional same-day release of arguments in cases with heightened public interest," said C-SPAN president Susan Swain in a statement. "Reporting on these key cases will be out for several days before the public is able to hear the arguments for themselves, in the Justices' own words."
All arguments are scheduled for Monday-Wednesday.
C-SPAN will continue to push for same-day release of recordings and TV coverage of arguments.