Listen: SCOTUS Back-And-Forth With Lawyer Features Apparent Toilet Flush

While the Supreme Court is still in session, the proceedings have been far from typical. During Tuesday’s hearings, the court entered its second day of airing oral arguments live for the first time in history, and Justice Clarence Thomas, who normally doesn’t raise questions during oral arguments, has been asking questions, according to USA Today.

But the biggest reminder that, at the nation’s highest court, there’s no business as usual, may have come after someone on the call seemingly finished doing their business as an attorney was responding to Justice Elena Kagan, one of the court’s liberal justices.

The exchange between attorney Roman Martinez and Justice Kagan concerned an exemption in a robocall law, which allows debt collectors to make automated calls to cellphones in the process of collecting debts owed to the federal government, or debts guaranteed by the federal government, as summarized by SCOTUSBlog.

MARTINEZ: With respect, perhaps I misunderstood the hypothetical Justice Kagan, but I thought in your  hypothetical, as long as the relationship element was satisfied, the call could be on whatsoever.

KAGAN: We know that holders of government debt call debtors to collect debt. That’s what they call them for. They’re not calling them to discuss political issues.

MARTINEZ: ….The subject matter of the call might range beyond the collection of government-backed debt. Maybe they’re going to be marketing some other product, maybe they’re going to be saying ‘Hey, Call your congressman and change these laws that apply to banks.’ And what the FCC has said is that —


MARTINEZ: When the subject matter of the call, ranges [inaudible] topic, then the call is transformed. And it’s a call that would have been allowed and is no longer allowed.

During the toilet flush, Martinez continues to respond to Justice Kagan, who re-enters the conversation shortly after without giving any regard to the toilet flush. It’s unclear where the toilet flush came from and who on the call heard it. 


In other SCOTUS news, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, received treatment for a gallbladder infection on Monday, but was also in virtual attendance and called into the hearing from the hospital on a static-laden phone line that would occasionally cut in and out when she asked questions.

The Supreme Court said in a statement on Tuesday that Ginsburg is expected to recover soon and will continue participating in court business as usual: “The Justice is resting comfortably and plans to participate in the oral argument teleconference tomorrow morning remotely from the hospital. She expects to stay in the hospital for a day or two.”

Ginsburg is a four-time cancer survivor, and announced in January that she was cancer free after receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer the prior summer, according to HealthLine.

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