Tony Mauro and transparency at the Court

One could argue that the Supreme Court is by far the most consequential organ of our federal government in 2015. After all, it will decide whether national health insurance will be national, and whether the states will be required to authorize the marriage of gays. The paralysis that we see in the relationship between Congress and the President is not a problem for the Court. It will decide, and, like it or not (please listen Mr. Huckabee), everyone else must follow.

The foregoing is why you should read Tony Mauro’s piece entitled Big cases, but little room at court: Column, USA Today (January 29, 2015).  How can it be that at most the Court’s functioning can be watched by no more than 200 regular citizens at a time?

Chief Justice Robert’s seeming wry embrace of the hidebound traditions of the Court aside, it is long past time that arguments be televised and shared with the world. By making transparent our own modern Oracle of Delphi, the ravings of the Pythia, and the translations of the high priests into elegant prose, might even end up being believable to we, the great unwashed. Plainly, plebeians like you and me desperately need to believe in something.



8 responses

  1. It isn’t just the Supreme Court you cannot follow if you are not there and, even if you are, most courts play shows more unintelligible than morning prayers in selected religious forums. Maybe the relationships between the powerful and the powerless would have been changed had cameras in the courts been allowed, without the mindless commentary of some of the know-it-all lawyers who do the play-by-play.

  2. Judge RGK,

    Very timely post.

    Mauro’s piece was hard hitting too (the tortoises promise continuing “progress”).

    “Advance to the rear” is an equally likely description of “progress” that we are destined to hear.

    The “common good”, once talked about seriously, has mutated or morphed into “the common gawd!

  3. Would be nice if the U.S. Supremes followed the practice of other courts and had a way to listen to the audio of arguments live. On the other hand, they do have audio and transcripts by the end of the week. Not sure cameras would add much to the arguments — other than allowing TV news to post clips. Having had TV news cover one of my oral arguments in state court, I am not sure that such coverage is a good thing (one soundbite that was tangential to the main point of the argument).

  4. Judge:
    Three quick responses: 1) despite the hype to the contrary, King v. Burwell, whatever the outcome, will likely not undo the existence of the ACA; 2) likewise, the gay marriage cases are likely to result in a decision which is a wash, i.e., one that says, in effect, nothing in the U.S. Constitution prevents the States from having gay marriage but, at the same time, nothing requires it; and 3) cameras in the High Court are not the problem, per se, it is the consequent editing of the raw material by television networks (and the attendant distortions that will inevitably come about) which the cameras capture that is the problem; only a U.S. Supreme Court version of CSPAN would alleviate this.

  5. Brilliant! Thanks for sharing that. It is now speeding through cyberspace on its way to my dog-loving, Supreme Court-following friends.

  6. I am thick. How would CSPAN approach bar editing for tv news? If it does not how will it solve distortion problem? Given the amount of material available on line already, let alone in books, what good is the televising of arguments going to do for perception of SCOTUS? Not opposed, but if people really think Scalia or RBG are typical law profs, registration my fall.

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