Saturday, April 25, 2009

No Cameras, Please

Apparently there are more interesting things going on at the Supreme Court besides the magic of dishwashing machines.  The Wall Street Journal reports that, upon appearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Thursday, "Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer said that [the] justices remain undecided on whether to allow television broadcasts of court proceedings, despite debate over the issue."

According to Justice Thomas, the justices have "discussed it and discussed it and discussed it," but have failed to reach consensus. Justice Breyer voiced concerns with broadcasting oral arguments because doing so "could detract from people's understanding of the court's functioning [as oral arguments constitute roughly only 2% of any given case]."

But, some members of Congress feel differently:
Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, a member of the panel, told the justices he favored adding television coverage of the court, pointing to broadcasts of the U.S. House and Senate. "It's a very simple matter to broadcast live on the Internet," Culberson said. "There's no logical distinction between the audience in the room and the audience in the country out there."
Hopefully we'll get an answer someday.

7 comments:

  1. On one hand I understand the value of anyone being able to see an oral argument before the Court, but I have to say that I'm rather persuaded by Breyer's argument. Assume the Court hears a high profile case (abortion rights, right to bear arms, etc) and the masses tune in. It's not improbable to think that, should the side with the weaker legal argument have a better presentment before the justices, the masses get all riled up against the justices. We already hear enough about "activist judges," will "activist justices" be next?

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  2. I think the activist justices argument is made fairly regularly. The federalism revolution of the Rehnquist court is a case-in-point. Extending Seminole Tribe to states? Give me a break. Conservative justices are activists on states rights, and liberal justices are activists on individual liberties. Has always been the case.

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  3. Scalia, if I remember correctly, is the one who is most opposed to the use of cameras in the courtroom.

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  4. The judiciary is a "branch" of government and the Supreme Court is the pinnacle of the branch. In short, it's a political actor although it would like to distance itself and has legitimate arguments to distance itself from the coordinate branches. There should be accountability, and cameras would help.

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  5. When are we going to further explore GW Law's perilous fall in rankings?

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  6. @ 11:45--

    I think we're content to let it go since (A) we think it's irrelevant, (B) we'd prefer to discuss real issues and (C) we're not a GW blog (though we do have a GW contributor).

    (But if you'd like a great GW blog, check out Sua Sponte--linked in our Blogroll)

    ReplyDelete
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