SCOTUS Makes Exception to No-Cell-Phone Policy

Cell Phones at SCOTUS

A group brought cell phones into the hallowed U.S. Supreme Court courtroom April 19. But instead of being admonished, the group was warmly welcomed.

That’s because it was a group of hearing impaired attorneys who brought the devices into the courtroom to assist with their admission to the Supreme Court bar.

Several of the 12 attorneys being admitted used cell phones or tablets to access the Communication Access Realtime Translation, or CART, service, which allows a third party to create a real-time transcript of the proceeding.

It was the first time the CART service was used for an admissions group, a Supreme Court spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA. But the high court has used the service in the past for arguing attorneys, she said.

However, the admissions group didn’t need any translation to understand that their motion for admittance had been granted. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. signed “Your motion is granted,” before moving on to his customary welcome to newly admitted attorneys.

The Chief learned the phrase specifically for the occasion, the court’s spokeswoman said.

The group stayed for the two oral arguments occurring that day.

As well as continuing to use the CART service, some also followed the proceedings with an interpreter who was seated near the bench.

The interpreter deftly dealt with overlapping questions from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and technical terms like recidivism and ex post facto laws.

Four of the newly admitted attorneys often took their focus off of the translations to “chat” among themselves. They were not, however, “shushed” by the Supreme Court police—as many (maybe me too) are during arguments.

All and all then, an irreverent day at SCOTUS!

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