Some might think that I have taken this position just to confuse people. Jeremy, rabid proponent of free speech, lover of the Supreme Court, obviously would be in favor of a bill requiring that all court cases be televised.
I think I suprised people a bit. The bill, Senate bill 1945, proposes amending Chapter 45 of title 28, United States Code to say:
The Supreme Court shall permit television coverage of all open sessions of the Court unless the Court decides, by a vote of the majority of justices, that allowing such coverage in a particular case would constitute a violation of the due process rights of 1 or more of the parties before the Court.
On the surface it may seem odd that I have taken a position opposed to allowing simple viewing access to an institution I have wanted to visit for years. However, my respect for the institution of the Supreme Court is largely due to the fact that it is slightly removed from the general operation of our government. More specifically, it is somewhat removed from the realm of politics. That is in no way to say that the Supreme Court is immune to politics, but the formal nature of the proceedings and the interaction between the lawyers and the Justices is a more intimate one than say, a Congressional hearing. And I believe this is a great strength.
I believe that by inserting the possibility of a live broadcast of hearings into the system, it will change the dynamics and motivations of the lawyers trying cases. They will no longer be speaking (primarily) to the Justices themselves, but will be also presenting their case to the broader audience. I also have the concern that the Justices will experience a chilling effect in that their questions will be scrutinized and challenged far more easily in a political light. Obviously, all of these things can happen in today’s system; transcripts and audio of cases are already released from the court, but there is a slightly higher bar to overcome that prevents most of the stupid, inane criticisms. I don’t believe that in the current system the lawyers and Justices are looking to drop the pithy sound bite that can be shown ad nauseam on Fox or CNN.
To play off the comments of supporter Arlen Specter; “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” I agree in general, however, too much sunlight gives you skin cancer.
You can share your opinion on Open Congress – S.1945.