I recently received a note from Blake Hawthorne, the Clerk of the Court, who thought my readers might want to know about some new resources on the Court’s website.

Oral argument archives

A few years ago, the Court switched from recording its arguments on cassette tapes to a new method of digital recording. That new method has helped the Court post the arguments on its website, usually the same day as the argument, in an easy-to-download MP3 form suitable for your iPod enjoyment (for jogging, driving to work, or sleeping on planes, as the mood strikes).

The older archives, however, remained trapped in audio tapes that were inconvenient for the clerk’s office and for anyone who had the misfortune of trying to find a cassette player in the mid-2000s to listen to those tapes. (I eventually found a walkman I had used in high school.)

But now the Court has digitized most of its old arguments, thanks to an equipment loan from West Publishing. The archive of old arguments as far back as 1990 has been processed and is available on this page. These arguments are now available on demand and no longer require the “nominal fee” that was mentioned every oral argument day for many years.

As Court’s website notes, the older recordings may have some flaws that the new ones do not. At least some of those are my fault, along with those of the other law clerks through the years, who used to be tasked with physically flipping over the cassette tape at the right moment. My apologies. (And my apologies to any readers at the other extreme who may be wondering “what’s a cassette tape?”)

Coming soon: Argument transcripts

Blake also mentioned an upcoming project for this fall that I’m particularly excited about. The Court plans to post searchable oral argument transcripts, in addition to the audio and video formats that it now posts. Those transcripts will be provided by West, which will also assist with transcribing some older cases (going back to around 2000).

While I’m not looking forward to reading transcripts of my own arguments, this will surely be a valuable tool for those who can skim transcripts faster than they can listen to audio or watch video.

What does West get out of the arrangement? I’m told that West will have the Court’s blessing to sell a searchable version of the video versions of the Court’s oral arguments, linked to these transcripts. So far as I know, the rest of us still cannot download those videos directly but can only watch them “streamed” from the St. Mary’s website.