FIRST ONE @ ONE FIRST

SCOTUS A/V Club

Posted in Non-justiciable by Mike Sacks on February 16, 2011

On a quick visit to the Supreme Court’s official website this morning, I noticed a new option under its Opinions menu: Video Resources.

At first I thought, “It couldn’t be!”  Well, it turns out that it, indeed, couldn’t be.  The Court wasn’t usurping C-Span over the years by surreptitiously recording video of its oral arguments to be released when no one was looking.  No, the two items available for download in this section are pieces of video evidence crucial to the Court’s decisionmaking in cases from 2007 and 2008.

The first video is a victim impact statement at issue in Kelly v. California, a case for which the Court denied certiorari, prompting Justice Stevens to issue a statement deeming the video to be inadmissibly prejudicial, if not irrelevant, to the capital case at hand.

The second video is of a car chase that the Court reviewed in Scott v. Harris ultimately to answer by an 8-1 vote in the affirmative the question of “whether a law enforcement official can, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, attempt to stop a fleeing motorist from continuing his public-endangering flight by ramming the motorist’s car from behind.”

By creating this new listing on its website, the Court hasn’t quietly unveiled never-before-seen footage: footnotes in both the Kelly statement and the Scott decision provide links to where the Court stored the videos on its former website.  Rather, the Court has simply made these videos more accessible than before.

Nevertheless, I’m still holding out hope that one day I’ll check the SCOTUS A/V Club to find that the Court has converted from Betamax the pilot oral argument recording of some obscure, late-Burger era case that contains such unflattering depictions of the justices as to expose once and for all the real reason why they remain so firmly committed against cameras in the courtroom.

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