Toilet Flush Interrupts Remote Supreme Court Argument

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments from home this week for the first time ever, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even the highest level of the judicial branch needs to adjust to the new paradigm, as the call included the distinct sound of a toilet flushing in the background. People online are still laughing over the high-level mishap.

The Supreme Court made history this week by allowing a session to be held via conference call for the first time its history on Wednesday, according to a report by the BBC. The session was streamed online, so it was open to the public when a toilet flushed amid one of lawyer Roman Martinez's statements. It was not clear where the sound came from, as several people were included on the call. The whole ordeal is already sparking a big response online.

Martinez was addressing the court in a case about the Telephone Consumer Protection Act at the time of the now-infamous flush. The sound caused the audio to clip as the conference calling software tried to determine which input was more relevant to the call, and which was background noise.

Even officials at the U.S. government had some fun with the unexpected flush sound. Ajit Pai, head of the Federal Communications Commission, retweeted a snippet of the flush with a snarky response. "To be clear, the FCC does not construe the flushing of a toilet immediately after counsel said 'what the FCC has said' to reflect a substantive judgment of the Supreme Court, or of any Justice thereof, regarding an agency determination," he tweeted.

Meanwhile, a report by Slate did its best to dig up who was behind the flush, with apparent success. Isolating various parts of the call and making a few humorous assumptions and educated guesses, writer Ashley Feinberg asserted that it was Justice Stephen Breyer who disrupted the call with a flush. Feinberg's efforts made a big splash on social media as well, helping to propel the mystery of the flush to new heights.


Flushing notwithstanding, the decision to host a Supreme Court argument online was a big one in many eyes, and a sign of the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic. Some massively important cases will be heard via this new arrangement, including one that concerns whether subpoenas can be issued for President Donald Trump's tax returns.

For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the websites of the CDC and the World Health Organization.