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Sunday, December 11, 2005 

Althouse on Cameras in the Court

Prof Althouse has a post explaining why she thinks cameras should be in the Supreme Court during oral arguments. I've resisted this in the past. I've deferred to the Justices on this issue, since they're the ones that have to live with it. Justice Souter said something to the effect of "over my dead body." There seems like there is some resistance. I'm also concerned about grandstanding by some of the lawyers during arguments. While I favor transparent government, I can't honestly say that the positives of the cameras outweigh the negatives. I don't think cameras in the House and Senate did much good. Our members of Congress have taken grandstanding to new, incredible heights.

Prof. Althouse makes some good points though. This especially...
The Justices have life tenure, and they know how to use it. We just saw 11 years pass without a retirement. Presidents go through through entire terms without a single opportunity to choose a fresh voice for the Court. It has become the norm for Justices to hold their seats as they pass into old age and severe illness. With the support of four gloriously able and energetic law clerks and the silence of the other Justices, no slip in a Justice's ability ever shows in his writing. But the Justices do need to take their seats on the bench for oral argument, and it is here that the public has the chance to judge them.
In general, Justices do not like to retire. Justice Douglas was a mess at the end of his time on the Court. There is no way he would've gotten away with staying on that long if a television audience saw what bad shape he was in then. Cameras may be a good check on that.

She also cites the biggest reason I would be in favor of cameras...
And I want to watch the arguments on television too.
I really want to see oral argument sometime. I hope to make a trip to DC in the near future and plan on getting in line bright and early, hoping for a seat in the gallery. Just seeing it would be cool.

Prof. Althouse also points out...
With cameras, Justice Scalia would win new fans, and "The Daily Show" would wring laughs from Justice Thomas's silent face. The read is inaccurate.
It would be nice for more people to actually know who the Supreme Court Justices are. I think that a member of the general public could name 3 or 4 of them. That's just a guess. I think Roberts would be easy since he's so new, everyone seems to know O'Connor, and Thomas is pretty famous from his confirmation hearings. Throw in the odd person who knows Scalia ("you know, that funny guy") or Ginsburg ("the other woman") and you get 4. Maybe I'll do an informal poll the next time I'm out somewhere...

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