Late one Saturday night earlier this month, the Kansas Supreme Court released an order in an attempt to curb COVID-19. The order received a lot of attention in Kansas and elsewhere, not just because the pandemic dominates the news cycle and not just because it is unusual for a state supreme court – or any court, for that matter – to conduct business on a weekend.
News of the order also informed a national audience – CNN and other national media reported on it -- that state supreme courts continue to work, meeting remotely with the aid of videoconferencing and teleconferencing software.
In fact, 17 state supreme courts and other courts of last resort have met remotely during this time, mostly hearing oral arguments and sometimes ruling on urgent matters, as the Kansas Supreme Court did. And six other states have made plans to do so. Check out the map on NCSC’s website to get more information.
One of the first to do so was the North Dakota Supreme Court, which on March 24, for the first time ever, heard oral arguments using a videoconferencing app. The technology allowed the justices to participate as they normally would, asking lawyers questions and making comments. “Most of the lights were out Monday at the North Dakota Supreme Court as part of social distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the court said in a statement. “But the justices conducted business nevertheless -- simultaneously from locations all over the state.”
Ohio Supreme Court justices began meeting remotely – from their individual chambers – on April 7, hearing four oral arguments.
“We are dedicated to continue the court’s business with minimal disruption,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said in a statement. “We are using the latest technology that makes remote oral arguments possible. It is important for the Supreme Court to do what every court in Ohio is asked to do: conduct business …and do so consistent with their essential functions.”