Virtual Supreme Court hearing is interrupted by flushing toilet

Americans able to tune-in to Supreme Court sessions for first time were surprised with toilet flushing sounds on Wednesday

Gino Spocchia
Thursday 07 May 2020 13:31 BST
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Supreme Court live stream interrupted by flushing toilet sound.mp4

As the US Supreme Court turned to teleconference calls amid the Covid-19 pandemic this week, listeners were able to hear the sound of a flushing toilet as legal arguments were being made.

Attorney Roman Martinez was addressing the court on Wednesday when the sound of the toilet was heard.

It was not clear where the sound came from – but Ajit Patel, the head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), did confirm the legality of the flush afterwards.

“To be clear, the FCC does not construe the flushing of a toilet immediately after counsel said “what the FCC has said” to reflect a substantive judgment of the Supreme Court, or of any Justice thereof, regarding an agency determination,” wrote Mr Pai on Twitter.

The surprise came in the middle of oral arguments in Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, a case concerning the Telephone Consumer Protection Act which prohibits unwanted automated calls to phones.

Until this week, neither the sound of a toilet flush or the oral arguments of lawyers had been streamed live from the Supreme Court.

It was unclear whether there were other lawyers or Supreme Court staff on the call when the toilet sound was heard.

According to the audio, there was no acknowledgement of the interruption during Mr Martinez’s argument.

He later told a Law360 journalist that the noise was not his.

Supreme Court lawyers were told beforehand that phones should be muted once an oral argument is complete, as the court manages live audio streams for the first time.

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