On ongoing debate among Supreme Court observers concerns whether or not the Supreme Court should allow cameras into the Court. “Debate” might not be the right word since no one seems to be making a strong case for the opposing argument. The consensus among observers is that the Court should allow cameras, and the Court seems not to care. It just quietly continues to forbid cameras in the courtroom.
Last month a youtube video emerged (shown below) which appears the be the first video of the Court in session. This has rekindled the old argument. Professor Erwin Chemerinsky is the latest to take up the mantle. His argument essentially is that open government proceedings are a necessary part of a functioning democracy.
I cannot disagree with Chemerinsky, but this will likely decrease the public’s estimation of the Court. For the most part, the way the Court operates is a mystery. Most decisions are ignored, but occasionally there is an important case that catches the public’s interest. At those times people seem to care more about the outcome of the case and not necessarily about the reasons the Court made its decision. Idealistic notions about the Court will end once everyone sees the behavior of individual justices. It is only a matter of time until a justice is lampooned on late night television for an impolitic jab made during oral arguments.
That is not to say that I am necessarily against cameras in the courtroom. Perhaps the public could use a little healthy distrust of the Supreme Court.