Beginning last week, attorneys are presenting Supreme Court arguments remotely.  (See here and here.)  The court is willing to assist counsel, but it has made clear the new procedures will most likely not delay any hearings.  This is evident from an exchange between the court and counsel in a case that will be heard on the just-announced early-May calendar.

In People v. Vargas, a death penalty appeal, defendant’s counsel asked that argument be postponed until the resumption of in-person hearings.  The court denied the request, saying it will continue to hold remote arguments and “will make no categorical exception for, and will not avoid setting, any case, including any capital appeal, that is otherwise ready to be argued.”  A possible exception is “[i]f counsel advises the court of physical constraints (e.g., hearing or sight deficiencies, or other health conditions) that would impair counsel’s ability to proceed by video or by telephone.”

But the court did tell the attorney it could help him argue remotely.  First, counsel has permission to appear just telephonically, even though the court expressed a preference for video.  Second, for those without video capabilities, the court said “counsel may, if they prefer, travel to the Supreme Court’s headquarters in San Francisco, or to a Court of Appeal facility near them, or to any other appropriate and nearby open court or other facility, and participate by video via an appropriate court computer, or via a private computer that may be set up in a room inside the court’s (or facility’s) quarters.”

The court’s complete letter to counsel is on the case docket.


“How the California Supreme Court Transitioned to Remote Oral Arguments in Less Than a Month”