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That Awkward Moment When a Toilet Flushes During Supreme Court Oral Arguments


The sum of human history and technological advancement led to a point Wednesday where the sound of a flushing toilet could be heard while the highest court in America was listening to arguments over the phone during a global pandemic.

The flushing toilet could be heard while attorney Roman Martinez was diligently arguing in Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, Inc. over the question of whether the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991’s robocall ban is “an unconstitutional content-based restriction of speech, and if so whether the Fourth Circuit erred in addressing the constitutional violation by broadening the prohibition to abridge more speech.”

Martinez was advocating for the position of the respondents, the American Association of Political Consultants.

“The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) imposes liability of up to $1,500 for any call or text message made or sent without prior express consent to a cell phone using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice,” the respondents’ brief said. “That broad prohibition on speech, however, is subject to a host of exceptions, including for calls made ‘to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.’”

The respondents said they are “direct participants in the American political process who wish to use automatic-call technology to engage in political speech at the core of the First Amendment. For that reason, they challenged the TCPA’s speech restrictions as unconstitutional.”

Some have warned that Supreme Court may end up unleashing a robocall nightmare if it rules in the respondents’ favor.

But all of that went down the toilet as quickly as something else did.

Some noted that Martinez is likely to be the butt of jokes even though it seems unlikely, based on the circumstances, that he was the culprit.

But if it wasn’t Martinez, who was it?

[Image via CSPAN screengrab]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.