Supreme embarrassment: the redness felt throughout the country

Toilet flush doesn't stop lawyer's Supreme Court argument
The Supreme Court was making history on Wednesday afternoon, arguing over the phone because of Covid-19, when the distinct sound of a toilet flushed suddenly.

Across the country, audiences who have never before been able to listen to oral discussions remotely in real time have been treated not only for in-depth questions related to the First Amendment and robots, but also to the apparent someone’s bathroom break.

The wandering flash from an unknown source comes when judges, lawyers and the country are facing new realities – and the risks – of conducting their business on teleconferencing lines.

The case in question concerned the Telephone Consumer Protection Act which prohibited unwanted calls to mobile phones through the use of an automated system. The challengers claim that a provision violates the Constitution. Lawyer Roman Martinez, representing political groups who defy the law, was insisting on his point when the color loss occurred.

Martinez did not appear confused or publicly noted the interruption.

The Supreme Court issued a guide for lawyers who would participate in oral discussions on the phone, noting that once a lawyer’s argument was completed, his line would be disabled and the “line for the next lawyer would be disabled.”

The court provided a live audio feed of the topics to Fox News (president of the network pool), Associated Press and C-SPAN. CNN.com streamed every session.

Robocall dispute

The robocall law was enacted in 1991 in response to consumers who were fighting intrusive phone calls. But the ban doesn’t cover all calls. An exemption, added by Congress in 2015, concerns debt collection calls to the federal government. The provision was added, according to the government, to ensure that debts to the United States can be collected as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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Political organizations contesting the statute claim that the exemption was unconstitutional and that the whole law had to fall. The groups try to call voters on their cell phones by using automatic selection systems to solicit donations or send messages regarding political issues.

Last year, a federal appeals court said that the public debt exemption violated the First Amendment because it banned some calls based on content, but authorized others. The court said, however, that the provision could be severed and the rest of the law could remain in effect.

Calls to the Supreme Court and the Justice Department were not immediately returned.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to spell Roman Martinez’s name correctly.

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