A report from a Supreme Court transparency watchdog spotlighted positive developments it says the high court made in the past year, but said there is much room for improvement.
"The main takeaway this term is the story of improvement at the margins — not only with the high court's website but also regarding digital disclosures, stock selloffs and livestreaming," Fix the Court wrote in its report. "The larger story: how federal appeals courts not named "SCOTUS" opened up even as the one on First Street didn't."
The report noted that four circuit courts — the 1st, 5th, 6th, and 7th Circuits — are considering audio upgrades and other positive developments for broadcasting court proceedings have been made elsewhere across the federal judiciary. Fix the Court's report pointed out that the livestream.supremecourt.gov web domain used to broadcast audio live of a bar meeting honoring the late Justice Antonin Scalia remained active, and said, "We hope it's used as soon as next term for live dissemination of oral arguments and opinion announcements."
Such live broadcasts appear unlikely to come from the Supreme Court anytime soon, but Fix the Court indicated that any reforms at the Supreme Court would not be dependent on which political party controls Congress.
"The Supreme Court has for years stood apart in American life as the most powerful, least accountable public institution," Fix the Court said. "The justices have had ample opportunity to allow live audio or sell off conflict-inducing investments or even retire at a reasonable age but have refused."
The group advocates for term limits for the justices.
"And though the committees of jurisdiction in Congress have reached consensus on our fixes – or at least on all but term limits – these bodies today are monumentally distracted, operating on the front lines in the battle over presidential legitimacy. Should the Democrats win back one or both houses next election and obtain subpoena power, circumstances in this regard are not likely to improve."
On Friday, the Supreme Court released a new-look website to "better support future digitization," which Fix the Court noted sounded "vague" and did not explain what future changes might come to the high court.
Fix the Court's report said the group has more work to do in the coming term than it "hoped or expected" and pointed to "the front lines of the next confirmation battle" as a place where it intends to be active.