When I was a young lawyer, I thought a lot about the U.S. Supreme Court – what it must be like to be on the court, to deliberate, research and argue among some of the finest legal minds in the nation. Time has passed, but I still hold the U.S. Supreme Court with the highest regard and reverence.
But (and I am not sure if they have the power to smite me down for saying this) it is time for our Supreme Court justices to come into the 21st century and allow television to cover at least some of the oral arguments they hear. Many courts allow television coverage and Congress and legislatures do as well. Every governor has a relationship with the press and press availability. Why should the U.S. Supreme Court be exempt?
C-Span, which has a vested interest in this debate, has a really interesting Web site
devoted to what the current justices say about TVs in their courtroom. The arguments given against allowing televised proceedings are not that compelling (I say with all due respect to my legal elders). Justice Roberts says it may impact the functioning of the institution. Justice Anthony Kennedy says, “televising our proceedings would change our collegial dynamic.” In other words, the Justices might start asking questions for the cameras to get a sound bite on Fox, MSNBC or CNN.
But how about balancing that fear with transparency? How about that portion of our citizenry that would love to take a peek into how the Supreme Court operates? One modest proposal would be to just try it – starting with the upcoming five-and-a-half hours of oral argument on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. There are many, many people in healthcare that would watch, many lawyers that would watch, and perhaps the estimated 44 million-plus uninsured that have a vested interest in the outcome would want to watch.
We as taxpayers pay for the U.S. Supreme Court. I am not suggesting they televise every proceeding, but there are some matters that are of such import to our citizenry that we deserve a peek. (Bush v. Gore comes to mind when our entire country didn’t know who the next President was due to some hanging chads). I think it could be done in a dignified, informative fashion.
So c’mon, Supremes, let us in. Just try it. Nothing ventured nothing gained, as my Mom used to say.