U.S. Supreme Court drops restrictions on access to tapes of oral arguments
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court dropped restrictions on access to copies of oral arguments audiotapes in early November just three months after it threatened to consider “legal remedies” against a California professor for selling copies of the tapes.
In a letter dated November 1, Alfred Wong, Marshal of the Supreme Court, directed the Archivist of the United States to “make the audiotapes available to the public on a generally unrestricted basis.” He gave no reason for the Court’s change in position, saying only that “the Court has now examined those restrictions and determined that they no longer serve the purposes of the Court.”
Professor Peter Irons was threatened with a lawsuit in August after he began to sell copies of the tapes titled, “May it Please the Court” in violation of an agreement that the tapes would be used for research and teaching purposes only. The Archives, pursuant to a request from the Court, required researchers to sign the agreement before purchasing copies of the tapes.
Use of the tapes was previously limited to federal government personnel in connection with official duties and to the general public for scholarly and legal research.