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Sunday, November 13, 2005 

Cameras in the Court

A group of Senators are pushing a bill that would put video cameras into the chambers of the Supreme Court to cover oral argument. Any time Specter, Schumer, and Leahy agree on something, you know it's a horrible idea.

Why is this even necessary? The audio of the arguments is already available. Hell, I listened to the Roe v Wade oral arguments last night. Also, the oral arguments are sort of meaningless. Sure, they let the Justices test the lawyers, seeing exactly how far their argument would take the law. But this is appellate advocacy. It's the writing, stupid. The briefs and their reasoning are more important than the oral argument.

Check this out...
Specter also squared the proposal with his long-standing annoyance with the Supreme Court for overturning federal statutes in language that insults Congress. "Americans would be flabbergasted," Specter said, to see on television how the Supreme Court disrespects Congress. He predicted the coverage would put some "legitimate pressure" on the Court.
Can someone please run this man out of office? Like right now? Arlen "Super-duper precedent" Specter fancies himself a legal scholar. I guess his copy of the Constitution doesn't have Article I, Section 8. Congress has (or had, maybe) enumerated powers, limiting what they can do. When the Court strikes down a law that is beyond the powers of Congress, they are doing their job. They should be applauded for it, not "pressured" into violating the code of judicial ethics to make some moron from Pennsylvania happy.

Justice Scalia is on record against cameras in the Court. He basically says that he doesn't like being turned into a sound bite. If people would watch the coverage from gavel to gavel and truly understand what the Court did, then that would be another thing. But when the news media would grab one or two sound bites from the Justices and present that as an accurate representation of the issue, it does nothing but dumb down Constitutional law.

Look at what Ralph Neas and Nan Aron do already to judicial nominees. Look at how badly Judge Alito's positions have been distorted and out right lied about recently. During oral argument, Justices sometimes ask hypotheticals or limit testing questions. They do this to find out exactly what the lawyer is arguing (if it is unclear in the briefs). Remembering Justice Stewart's questions in Roe, I know that the kind of questioning from a Justice doesn't always agree with their vote (though it can. They even sound silly sometimes. But that is what oral argument is about: asking far out questions to focus the argument of the parties.

Let's say that this bill gets through. Then what? Will one of the Justices challenge it in court? That would be cool. Petition the Court to grant cert immediately, argue the Constitutionality of it in front of the Court. Specter would cry. Or how about this... the bill becomes law and the Court decides to stop hearing oral arguments. Do everything with the briefs.

If the Justices want cameras, they should be able to make that choice. Congress should not make that choice for them. Knowing some of the lawyers who argue cases there, this could be horrible. The last thing I want to see is a bunch of grandstanding in the highest court in the land.

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