Should the US Supeme Court Allow Video Cameras?

Sensitive subjects would still be edited. Case in point: Prop 8.

Yeah, that was CA Supreme Court, but even at a state level, it’s limited.

Since we don’t vote for them on SCOTUS, wouldn’t full video coverage of SCOTUS Justices bear some outrage in the public eye? (Especially Scalia :D)

Do they not argue their decisions in private?

And give the reasons for them in public also known as the Opinion of the Court.

No. The Supreme Court is not a democratically elected body and, as such, nothing would be offered by broadcasting video. Even if what they saw would outrage the public, the judicial branch is a check on the popularly elected Congress and the (mostly) popularly elected President.

It doesn’t matter if 95% of the population disagree with something. If it tramples on the basic rights of the 5%, then it is up to the judicial branch to correct the problem.

Both. SCOTUS justices should be the best and the brightest in the land. They are tenured for life, and have no (or almost no) fear of removal from office. They go through a grueling, on camera, confirmation process in front of the Senate. I see no reason why they can’t restrain themselves from paying to the cameras in court.

The print media already edits, distorts, and quotes them out of context. The media of the 21st century is video, and I see no compelling reason for the SCOTUS to hide behind a 19th century notion of what the media consists of.

I think the fear is more that people making oral arguments before the court would spend more time demagoguing for the cameras, rather then the Justices themselves doing so. Especially in cases where conventional wisdom is that the Justices have pretty much already decided which way they’re going to rule, its easy to see arguers using their appearances to play to the court of public opinion and wasting the Courts time.

So given that concern, I think I’m good with the present state of affairs, The “openness” arguments don’t hold a lot of weight for me, oral arguments are already fully public. Putting out the video doesn’t add anything substantial to their content, SCOTUS proceedings aren’t exactly action packed ,visually speaking.

Plus the economy is already in rough shape. I’d hate to harm it further by send courtroom sketch artist guy to the unemployment line.

It would be foolish in the extreme for anyone arguing in front of the court to use the very limited time they have to demagogue. If anything, it would prejudice the court against them. I think there is natural check in place to prevent that.

:rolleyes: If they respect the law, they aren’t making decisions based on who they get along with at law school.

I see absolutely no reason why any of the court’s proceedings should be on TV. If they are going to be broadcast, does that mean the federal circuits should be on TV? Federal district courts? Who the hell is going to watch this stuff anyway?

True in cases where the Courts opinion is though to be in flux, but in a lot of cases most people seem to agree that oral arguments are rarely particularly important in deciding the case one way or another. Does anyone really think Justice Kennedy doesn’t already know whether the SCOTUS will find the Individual Mandate constitutional or not? I can see some arguers or witnesses using their time on that issue to try and convince the public, rather then inform the court.

What witnesses?

ETA: In case you didn’t know, no evidence is presented during appellate proceedings. Reviewing courts rely on whatever appears in the record of the original trial.

SCOTUS would be the first court to hear a case in fairly rare circumstances (basically, only in disputes between states).

I guess witness isn’t the right word, since they aren’t giving sworn testimony. What do you call someone who argues for one side or another but isn’t the counsel for that side?

If you mean amici curiae, they don’t appear before the court. Amici can file briefs arguing one side or the other but only counsel for the actual parties give oral argument.

I’m for televising the arguments but only by C-SPAN and not any broadcast or cable news networks. C-SPAN points the camera, turns on the mics and gets out of the way of what it broadcasts. It lets the event speak for itself. The others don’t do that. I shudder to think about the shouting and hyperbole the network hosts/pundits would have said during broadcast of a controversial case like BUSH V. GORE.

I simply don’t believe allowing camera’s would be a net benefit to the country. I support allowing the justices to control their courtroom as they see fit.

If you are of a differing opinion, request congress challenge their camera ban in court, then I’m sure we’ll all be able to read about why they chose to keep the ban in effect.

I’d support camera’s being used if the footage would not be released till years after the trial.


I don’t know if that’s true, but if that is true, then what’s the harm in letting in cameras?

I’m pretty sure they do argue if their side agrees to let them. I recall hearing (or hearing someone read a transcript of) someone from the ACLU argue even though they weren’t actual defense. I was under the impression its not uncommon.

FWIW, wikipedia agrees.

I stand corrected. I think the point remains, though: nobody is going to cede their time to amici to allow them to grandstand.

Technically true. So suppose you’re in Des Moines, and want to watch the oral arguments for a particular case. You can of course hop a plane to D.C. and attend the oral arguments. I don’t know how often it happens that more people want to watch than there are seats available, but I know it does happen. Mr. Des Moines might be out of luck, and really can’t guarantee otherwise.

OTOH, if he could watch the hearings on C-SPAN, he wouldn’t have to (a) travel, and (b) still face a crapshoot at the D.C. end with respect to being able to personally witness the oral arguments.

I’m pretty evenly split on this for one reason: we already know what goes on in oral arguments, because the Supreme Court posts audio of it each week. What value does television coverage add?

The other thought that occurs to me is that the Supreme Court is a pretty widely respected institution, and televising the proceedings may bring them down to earth in the eyes of most Americans. Even though I disagree with some of their rulings, I have got to say that there is an intrinsic value to having a judiciary that is generally respected and not subject to the same pressures of the television new cycle as the other branches of government. That being said, my own view isn’t really made up, but I’m just not sure why television coverage is important.