Second Circuit of Appeals to Finally Place Oral Arguments Online by Default — Write to the Court with Your Suggestions

Michael Lissner

At the end of last week there was some excellent news coming out of the Second Circuit:

That's right, years after the other circuits put their oral arguments online, the Second Circuit has decided to join the party. According to the Court's announcement (presently on the homepage; will eventually be in their archive):

At its quarterly meeting on May 23, 2016, the judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit approved the posting of audio recordings of oral arguments to the Court's website, commencing August 15, 2016, the first day of the 2016 Term.

A few months ago, we calculated that this content would cost $300,000 to purchase, so this is great news for historians, scholars, legal practitioners, and everybody in between.

To make this change, the Court has proposed a change to its local rules, and there is a 30 day period ending July 15th for the public to make comments on the change. The change the Court has proposed is quite minor, simply stating that the website should now have "audio recordings of oral arguments." What this leaves on the table is how the recordings will be posted, and this is where we ask that you get involved.

If you enjoy listening to oral arguments or if you believe these oral arguments serve as important historical records, we ask that you write a letter to the Court at We just completed our own letter, where we made the following points:

  1. All historical recordings should be available -- not just the new recordings.
  2. A process should be in place to receive all historical recordings if they are not posted on the website.
  3. Metadata and machine-readable feeds are vital so that the information can be gathered by computers.
  4. Recordings should be released in MP3 format with specific high-quality compression configurations (see our letter for details).

Although more formality tends to help, it is not necessary to write a formal letter with the above points. If it's easier, you can simply write a quick email to the Court using the address above, and put your comments in there. The more people who write to the court, the better our chances of getting the complete collection of recordings, and the better our chances of getting good data feeds with high-quality data.

Once the Court begins placing these recordings online, we will begin collecting them and adding them to CourtListener. We calculate that the court has about 10,000 oral argument recordings, and we're hopeful that it will post them all publicly. Your letter could help make that happen!

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