Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lights! Camera! Decision!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is an editorial in today’s New York Times regarding the rather clouded discourse that goes on in one of America’s three branches of government:  the judicial branch, more commonly referred to as the nation’s court system.  The Times would like to see the proceedings of the U.S.Supreme Court, in particular, televised.    

While lower courts often deal with individuals who have a certain degree of expectation of privacy, the Supreme Court of the United States focuses on defining the law and seeing how things fit within the framework of the Constitution.  Oral arguments before the Big Court are often summarized by reporters for public consumption, and decisions are announced publicly, but only a handful of people actually manage to gain admittance to the Court to watch firsthand when these events, some of which are historically momentous, occur. The justices oppose letting too much daylight enter their hoary old halls - and, in particular, the Supremes are averse to admitting television cameras into their shadowy inner-sanctum.

Congress has permitted the use of cameras in its proceedings since 1979, and the resulting coverage has ranged from highly educational - to downright entertaining - to unqualified big yawns.   Bringing in the cameras did not hamper or destroy the capacity of lawyers and car dealers to grapple for pork or serve the needs of their big donors. 

Surely the U.S. Supreme Court, an organization of individuals who do not have to rely on a steady flow of contributions to maintain their grandiose positions, could make do with the eye-that-never-blinks watching them while they work.

The basic argument of the resistant justices, at least according to the Times, seems to be that having cameras in their workspace would lead to grandstanding by the members of the Court.   Who actually believes that Antonin Scalia would need a camera in his face in order to grandstand?    The other argument is that Joe Public might be too dumb to understand what is being discussed.    Agreed – and Joe can always grab the remote as he reaches for another beer – but those who have an interest in the big show should have the opportunity to watch.

With a little forethought, Chief Justice Roberts could make this work.  Probably all it would take would be to assign someone to wake Clarence Thomas each time the light on the camera goes from red to green.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg would probably enjoy slapping the old fart every now and then!

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

Justice delayed is justice denied. But is media delayed media denied? I agree that live televised opinions would be interesting, especially to persons like us who are willing to sit through a Justice reading a lengthy opinion. Most folk, however, just want to know what it means. That's why the SCOTUS press pool is valuable.

The Court does have, under its oral arguments tab, an option to hear the oral arguments as well, in another tab, access to briefs on issues. Another tab, opinions, permits viewing the process after the fact. That link is

If you want to read a recent opinion there is a "box" on the upper right side of the SCOTUS home page. These are called slip opinions, as they have not yet been published in the official reports, law book, of SCOTUS opinions.

Recent former year opinions are available here as well.

If you have insomnia watching these opinions play out may be the cure.