Supreme Court Enters 20th Century; 21st Will Have to Wait

Monday, April 27, 2009

The longstanding debate over allowing cameras inside the U.S. Supreme Court was renewed recently at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing, where Justices Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas appeared before lawmakers to discuss the court’s next budget. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) used the opportunity to politely chide the justices about the need for greater transparency of the court, and both Breyer and Thomas said they and their colleagues might be open to audio recordings of oral arguments and posting them on an upgraded Supreme Court website. Culberson countered that if audio recordings are okay, then why not video as well, and then whipped out a small digital video recorder, turned it on Breyer and Thomas, and began podcasting live.

Far from accepting live broadcasts of Supreme Court arguments, Breyer argued that even videotaping the court in action would be too much too fast for the current court members, adding that “social science research” is needed before such a move will be possible. Thomas backed up Breyer, telling Culberson that no one on the court is ready to “aggressively push the institution in a way that will result in some diminishment of the institution.” Culberson implored Breyer and Thomas, “Don’t wait for the social science research. Trust your hearts.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Pushing the Supreme Court Toward Transparency (BLT: The Blog of Legal Times)


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