What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

The video for this story is not available, but you can still read the transcript below.
No image

Released Audio Tapes Shed Light on Court Hearings

The Supreme Court has released the audio tapes of some of its highest profile hearings, granting the public unprecedented access to courtroom proceedings. NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman reports on the sounds of the Supreme Court.

Read the Full Transcript

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    No camera ever has been allowed to record the proceedings inside the Supreme Court. For most of its 217-year history, only sketch artists and note-taking journalists have been permitted to document the court's oral arguments.

    But in 2000, intense public interest surrounding the Bush v. Gore case prompted the court to release an audio recording of that argument. And since then, similar recordings of high-profile cases also have been released.

  • ATTORNEY:

    Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court…

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    We chose, as an example, the arguments in a December civil rights case, which pitted a group of white parents against the Seattle, Washington, school board. The parents claimed their children were kept from attending schools of their choice because of their race.

    Attorney Harry Korrell can be heard stating their position.

  • HENRY KORRELL, ATTORNEY:

    The central question in this case is whether diversity, defined as the school district does, as a white, nonwhite racial balance, can be a compelling interest that justifies the use of race discrimination in high school admissions.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    With the exception of Justice Clarence Thomas, who rarely speaks during arguments, this court is especially active, according to Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal. A NewsHour regular, she's covered the court for 19 years.

  • MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal:

    These justices just have a lot of questions, and they don't like dramatics, either. They don't want you to get — a lawyer to get up there and give a speech. They want the lawyer to go right to the heart of the case. And usually the lawyer has about 30 seconds before the questions begin.

  • JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, U.S. Supreme Court:

    Isn't it odd to say that you can't use race as a means?

  • JUSTICE ANTHONY SCALIA, U.S. Supreme Court:

    Is there anything unconstitutional about that objective?

  • JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER, U.S. Supreme Court:

    Now, what is your response to that?

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    Washington lawyer Mark Levy has argued before the court on 15 occasions.

  • MARK LEVY, Attorney:

    I think the average these days in the court is to have about 90 questions or even more in a 60-minute argument. So that's about a question-and-a-half every minute.

    The nature of that really puts a premium on a facility at oral argument and intense preparation. You need to be able to answer a question quickly and get the best part of your answer out in the first sentence or two, because that may be all the answer that you get a chance to get out.

  • HENRY KORRELL:

    Justice Ginsburg, our preposition is that that is prohibited by the Constitution, absent past discrimination by the school district.

  • JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA:

    You would object, then, to magnet schools?

The Latest