FIRST ONE @ ONE FIRST

Jost on Cameras in the Courtroom

Posted in F1@1F Friends by Mike Sacks on January 24, 2011

Ken Jost, the Supreme Court editor at CQ Press, has put together a lengthy and comprehensive analysis on all things “Cameras in the Court” in a new report for CQ Researcher.  I’ve seen a copy–which includes a sidebar interview with me among its 20-plus pages–and the report really achieves the impossible by making the otherwise well-trod topic quite interesting by exploring its unnoticed nuances and taken-for-granted history.  An excerpt introducing the report is available at CQ Researcher’s blog:

[E]xcept for the working press, members of the Supreme Court bar and invited guests, all visitors to the Supreme Court face a time-consuming process in trying to see the justices in action. Would-be spectators typically line up hours in advance to claim one of the 250 seats available for the general public. At least 50 spectators are allowed to stay for an entire, hour-long argument, but others are ushered in for only a few minutes.

Camera-access advocates have been making their case over the past decade in large part by emphasizing the public’s limited access to the courtroom. “There is no reason why in the 21st century the American people should not be able to watch their democracy in action, and the Supreme Court should not be an exception,” says Nan Aron, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice. The alliance was part of a 46-group coalition led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that urged the lame-duck Congress last year to pass legislation either requiring or calling on the Supreme Court to permit live TV coverage.

The pressure from Congress and outside groups has helped prompt the court to make audio recordings of arguments available sooner and more widely than in the past. But the justices have not allowed camera coverage of proceedings, whether live or delayed.

The three justices vocally opposed to cameras — Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas — warn that TV coverage could hurt collegiality on the court and endanger the justices’ personal security. Scalia has also complained that TV coverage would reduce the Supreme Court to “entertainment.”

This excerpt, however, hardly does justice to the breadth and depth of the full report, which you can purchase in print or electronic format at CQ Press.

My own take on the topic can be found here and here.

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