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Audio Archive: Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments Remotely

The Supreme Court has released live audio of its oral arguments, for the first time.
Olivier Douliery
AFP via Getty Images
The Supreme Court has released live audio of its oral arguments, for the first time.

Updated on Wednesday, May 13, at 3:45 p.m. ET

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court has over two weeks heard oral arguments remotely, with audio streaming live for the public — a first for the court.

The arguments included high-profile cases about religious freedom, President Trump's financial records and the Electoral College.

For each case, both sides had the same amount of time, beginning with two minutes of uninterrupted argument. Then, each justice was allotted two minutes for questioning.

The justices spoke in order of seniority: After Chief Justice John Roberts, it was Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

You can listen back to all of the historic oral arguments below:

May 13: Faithless electors

Cases: Chiafalo v. Washington; Colorado Department of State v. Baca

Summary: Both cases involve so-called faithless electors — Electoral College delegates who fail to vote for the presidential candidate they were pledged to support. At issue is whether states can punish or remove such electors in order to ensure that the state's electors accurately represent the state's vote.

Recap: Justices Fear 'Chaos' If Electoral College Delegates Have Free Rein

May 12: Trump finances

Cases: Trump v. Mazars consolidated with Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG; Trump v. Vance

Summary: These cases involve subpoenas for some of Trump's pre-presidential financial records. Two consolidated cases — Trump v. Mazars and Trump v. Deutsche Bank — ask whether Congress has the power to subpoena the president's personal records except during an impeachment proceeding; Trump v. Vance addresses a New York grand jury subpoena for those same records in the course of a criminal investigation.

Recap: Will Supreme Court Bail Out Trump In Subpoenas For Financial Records?

May 11: Native American land; Religious freedom

Case: McGirt v. Oklahoma

Summary: On the surface, this case is about whether states, like Oklahoma, can prosecute members of Native American tribes for crimes committed in the historical bounds of tribal land. But it has implications for state power over thousands of miles of land in Oklahoma that has historically belonged to Creek, Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes.

Cases: Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru consolidated with St. James School v. Biel

Summary: A freedom of religion case that tests whether lay teachers at parochial schools are protected by federal laws barring discrimination based on race, gender, age and disability; or whether, as the schools here maintain, their lay teachers are exempt from the protection of those laws. The case has potential implications for the millions of Americans employed not just by parochial schools but also by religiously affiliated hospitals, charities and universities.

Recap: Supreme Court Weighs Whether Religious Schools Can Fire Lay Workers

May 6: Birth control access; Robocalls

Cases: Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania consolidated with Trump v. Pennsylvania

Summary: The court considers a Trump administration rule that would allow employers with religious or moral objections to birth control to limit their employees' access to free birth control under the Affordable Care Act.

Recap: Fervor Vs Compromise At Supreme Court Birth Control Arguments

Case: Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants

Summary: In 1991, Congress passed a law that prohibits most robocalls. In 2015, Congress created an exception for government debt collection. Political groups, which want to use robocalls to raise money and turn out voters, are challenging the act as a violation of their First Amendment free speech rights.

May 5: Aid for HIV program

Case: USAID v. Alliance for Open Society International

Summary: A new twist on an old case. In 2013, the justices said the government had violated the First Amendment by making funding for U.S. nonprofits contingent on those nonprofits trumpeting the government's policy position on key issues. The case is back, but this time the question before the court is whether it's unconstitutional if the government makes funding contingent for foreign-based affiliates of those same U.S. nonprofits.

Recap: Supreme Court Considers Anti-Prostitution Pledge In HIV/AIDS Funding Case

May 4: trademark

Case: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office v. B.V.

Summary: Generic terms cannot be trademarked, but wants to trademark its name. This case is about whether generic terms can become protected trademarks by the addition of a generic ".com" domain.

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Recap: Supreme Court Livestreams Oral Argument For 1st Time In History

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.