The Weakness of the Case for Cameras in the United States Supreme Court

The Weakness of the Case for Cameras in the United States Supreme Court

Many people regard it as obvious that Supreme Court proceeding's
should be open to video camera, and should be broadcast live on television
and online. After all, the activities of Congress and the President are routinely publicized in this way, as are the proceedings of many state and lower federal courts. The benefits of such broadcasting seem manifest, and by stubbornly resisting this trend the Supreme Court apparently runs afoul of the basic demands of democratic transparency.

In this Article, I show that these familiar positions are very difficult to
sustain. On close inspection, all of the common arguments for cameras
in the Supreme Court fail to persuade, either because they rest on speculative
empirical premises or because they extrapolate unconvincingly
from generic propositions about government openness. Not only is
video not required by our commitment to transparency, I argue, but
there are no reasonable grounds for confidence that it would promote
any of the goods claimed in its name, including public understanding,
accountability, and legitimacy. In fact, there are affirmative reasons to
doubt that video, at least as ordinarily experienced in our present social
context, would improve the public's understanding of the Court
and its process. In short, the case for cameras in the Supreme Court
turns out to be surprisingly weak. My analysis suggests that, at least
for now, Congress should defer to the Court's prudential judgment on
this issue and that the Justices are right to regard video skeptically.
Nevertheless, I conclude by explaining why the Court may eventually
find itself with compelling reasons to reverse that judgment and to embrace

Add new comment

Plain text

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.