Supreme Court

Given That Two of The Justices Are From Trenton and Another From Newark, Maybe SCOTUS is Already The Jersey Shore

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Over at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey has started a poll based on Reason.tv's recent vid, "The Case For Cameras in The Supreme Court" (alternative title in foreign markets: "Why Have Cameras Been in Katie Couric's Colon But Not The Supreme Court?"). Writes Morrissey:

The principle of transparency is key to a free society, but television does not equal transparency. The Supreme Court doesn't hold its interrogatory sessions in secret; those are public, and usually attract regular media attention in more significant cases. Their deliberations are private, but not even Nick wants to televise those; the question is whether to televise the public proceedings. The only value in that, it seems to me, is in training attorneys to present cases to the Supreme Court, which they can do by attending the sessions themselves. Otherwise, the value in having millions of people see the facial twitches of Ruth Bader Ginsburg rather than just reading the publicly-available transcripts of the proceedings seems an awfully minor value for transparency advocates to champion.

Part of my skepticism comes from having watched the OJ Simpson trial fifteen years ago. Cameras didn't improve the quality of justice; in fact, cameras turned the trial into a farce (or perhaps more of a farce than it otherwise would have been), with attorneys mugging for the camera and the media blowing everything out of proportion, including the fashionwear of the participants. Television didn't equal transparency then, and it doesn't now. The only non-transparent part of the Court's process is the deliberation, and the last thing we need is nine justices turning the Supreme Court into Jersey Shore.

More here, including a poll that you can vote in. Please vote your conscience, if you have one!

A couple of quick points: As an LA resident in the '90s, I watched and breathed the OJ Simpson trial too and drew a different conclusion from that experience than did Morrissey. The trial and the coverage was a fascinating and chilling glimpse into the idiocy of a prosecution that, despite an open-ended budget, sucked balls when it came to putting together what should have clearly been an open-and-shut case. The Simpson trial was an incredible cultural moment for many reasons, not the least of which were the issues of race, class, and gender it raised for discussion (indeed, far more than the politically correct college classrooms of the time did the OJ trial provide a forum for talking about so much of American life. And for keeping Kato Kaelin off workfare for a few extra weeks). I think America, and American justice, is much better for those proceedings being televised and letting all of us witness what happens in a courtroom. Note too that the C-SPAN-style filming wouldn't be the same as the often-breathless and inconsistent coverage of the OJ trial.

Second, as Ed notes, the transcripts (and the audio) of SCOTUS proceedings are available, though as C-SPAN's Brian Lamb notes, these often take a long time to come out. Yet there may well be a value in seeing Ruth Bader Ginsburg falling asleep during oral arguments, or checking out Nino "The Situationalist" Scalia's demeanor. It's interesting in and of itself and does no harm, I think. This may be a "minor value," as Ed puts it, but what's the cost? The same sort of arguments were made against televising Congress, that legislators would start playing to the cameras (curiously, no one ever makes that argument about convenience store customers). Mebbe, mebbe not. But would it be a bad thing if they did? As Lamb put it, these folks are public servants. Why not give us a look-see?

And now, on with the show:

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  1. Wait, doesn’t Law and Order give us an accurate depiction of what goes on in a courtroom?

    1. Law and Order, and most other legal / police procedural TV programs, are generally based on the premise that suspects are too ignorant to STFU and get a lawyer right from the get-go.

      The series “The Closer” is ENTIRELY based on people not lawyering up like anyone smarter than room temp ought to.

      1. Don’t forget, many people who haven’t had any experience with the “justice” system believe that cops and prosecutors are honest.

        1. They are not on the side of seeking the truth? When did that happen? Why wasn’t I notified?

      2. And in CSI, crime scene investigators interrogate suspects and argue with lawyers. There is only one detective in Las Vegas, apparently.

  2. Is he implicitly making a case for removing cameras from Congress or is there a distinction between Congress and the SCOTUS that I am missing in my hurry to get some lunch?

    1. Congress is supposed to be open to public pressure and scrutiny. The Court, not so much.

      1. How does television change the level of pressure? I don’t buy that they shouldn’t be open to scrutiny.

        1. What frightens me isn’t the justices playing to the cameras, but the lawyers. If you have a popular cause that you know is going to lose, you have every reason to play up for some future TV attack ad.

          I think the Court is too much of a political football already, and televising it could have the deleterious effect of making it another part of the FOX/MSNBC spin machine.

          Imagine Olbermann: “Today’s Worst Person in the World’ – Antonin Scalia, for letting more guns into our children’s hands. And what does he have to say for himself?’

          Cue Scalia referencing the Constitution.

          1. Worse, the spawning of Supreme Court “strategists” infesting the news universe.

          2. I don’t think these are serious issues. Having sat through a number of them, Supreme Court arguments are a rather peculiar little kabuki ritual with very little of the “raw meat” appeal that you get in a trial.

            Firstly, most the cases the Court hears are tax, maritime or other obscure federal statutory cases that mostly function as a sleep aid for non-participants.

            99% of the time, even the hot button Supreme Court cases are argued–and decided–on extremely technical grounds that only make sense if you’ve followed the case from the inception.

            I see no harm in televising the arguments and think it would be a good idea.

          3. OlberD-Bag can already do that, he just can’t use a video clip of Scalia saying it.

      2. And remember, unlike the President or Congress, who can appear on TV to defend themselves if quoted on camera, the justices cannot do so, as a matter of ethics, leavinf them vulnerable, along with their constitutional principles, to be punching bags rather than figures of debate.

  3. I had hoped this blog would be a safe haven from The Jersey Shore.

    1. SNOOKIE IS EVERYWHERE

      As an aside, I feel like “Snookie” should be the code word for some kind of sleep rape. “I snookied her while she slept” or something on that order.

        1. I can’t condone police abuse or tasering, even if it is Snookie. I’m sticking to my principles. You, of course, have none.

          1. If I didn’t despise the “die in a fire” cliche, I’d hope that Snookie and her witless pals did just that, at least metaphorically.

      1. I don’t know who or what this “Snookie” is, and I really don’t want to know, so please don’t tell me.

        I have a sense that “The Jersey Shore” is some kind of repulsive “reality” TV show. But I repeat myself – all “reality” TV is repulsive.

        1. Click my link. Click it. You know you want to…

      2. Good morning just woke up, why am I sore?

    2. Is there anything new with Obama’s Snookie-gate crisis?

      1. You don’t want to see Snookie’s gate, believe me.

  4. I don’t really see much value in it, but if they can do it on the cheap or are just letting the media bring cameras in, sure, whatever. I’d worry about it making the court more political by making it a big show, but I think that ship already sailed long ago.

    In regards to convenience store cameras.

    1. I don’t think it makes sense that since the court is already political, we should make it more so.

  5. I wonder if there’s a balance between live T.V. and no cameras. Perhaps allow it to be taped, but wait until the case is over before the video is released. This will minimize the potential circus environment, but maintain some desired transparency.

  6. Nick, I lived and still do live in Hollywood, LA from 1989 till now.
    Where did you live in LA in the 1990s?
    I could swear I saw you in the Frolic room.(It is a bar on Hollywood blvd. for those who don’t know.)
    thanks

  7. As an aside, I feel like “Snookie” should be the code word for some kind of sleep rape.

    Too late. “Snookied” already means “banged a fat midget as part of my wingman duties.” Sleep-rape would be a step down in referent-abhorrence, and slang doesn’t trend that way.

    1. Damn what the hell all my midgets are skinny.

  8. This is one thing where Clarance Thomas has it right. Oral arguments are a waste of time. Who cares if they film them or not.

    One thing I would like to open up is the hiring of clerks. Especially with the older justices, clerks hold a tremendous amount of power. And who are they? They generally snot nosed kids.

    Justices shouldn’t be allowed clerks. There ought to be a group of career lawyers who work for the justices in a pool to assist with research. But the opinions ought to be drafted completely by the justices.

    1. Snot nosed kids almost entirely from 3 schools.

      1. Harvard & Yale are obvious. What’s the 3rd? Cornell? Stanford? Brown?

        1. Chicago and Standford. Cornell and Brown are ghetto ivies.

        2. I actually got interested in my own answer as well and looked up the law clerks and their schools from last summer. I was thinking Stanford but actually UVA was the far distant 3rd with 4/36, Georgetown and Stanford were the only other ones with more than 1 (2 each). Harvard and Yale had 10 each.

          Some justices (notably Thomas) had far more diverse choices than others (Souter had 2 yale, 2 harvard).

          1. Thomas says that he hires exclusively from state law schools in the circuit for which he is responsible (the Southeast). I love that guy.

  9. Real legal nerds want to see the judicial law clerks bluebooking the briefing memos.

    Hot! Hot! Hot!

  10. And remember, unlike the President or Congress, who can appear on TV to defend themselves if quoted on camera, the justices cannot do so, as a matter of ethics, leavinf them vulnerable, along with their constitutional principles, to be punching bags rather than figures of debate.

    1. Stupid quoter – that was meant to be upthread.

      1. And so it is. And so it is.

  11. I have always thought that cameras belong in the Supreme Court. I never see it happening, though . . . it’s very difficult to pry away a shade of privacy from government, though they are content to continuously invade ours.

  12. I’m most impressed with how Nick worked the phrase “sucked balls” into the post. You don’t hear that enough, especially during this golden era of teabagging.

  13. Hmm. I’ll make a half-hearted attempt at an argument. Somewhere in the interminable haze that was grad school, they discussed how a majority of communication between humans was non-verbal. We, the public, miss all the subtleties of the courtroom because we can’t see the non-verbal cues expressed by the participants.

    Aside from that, I’m not sure why I should be bothered to care about the issue.

  14. The footage from oral arguments would be endless fodder for political groups. I can envision the Democrats using footage of Justice Thomas sitting quietly and listening for their usual two minutes hate.

    Justice Thomas of course has prepared himself for the case using relevant arguments from the thousands of available pages of briefs, precedents, and lower court decisions. At oral arguments, his preparation assures he is sufficiently versed, and already knows the answer to most every question asked by his colleagues. Thomas’ refusal to engage in intellectual chest thumping with the rest of the apes confuses the left, which views it as a lack of intelligence.

    1. All you have to do to realize Thomas knows what’s going on is read one of his opinions.

  15. Thomas is the best justice we have . . . hands down. He has more than enough intellectual heft, and is as close to a libertarian justice on SCOTUS that we are ever likely to have.

  16. Sure, televise the hearings. Maybe then Clarence Thomas might make a few sharp questions to expose some particular idiocy, rather than remaining silent.

  17. CSPAN has not been an unalloyed good for the quality of Congress. It’s basically added transparency to grandstanding and misleading pie-charts.

    1. It has, however, given The Daily Show and The Colbert Report some hilarious clips with which to expose the idiocy that the MSM won’t touch.

  18. I thought that arguements before the supreme court had strict time limits? The fact that a lawyer only has a half hour to make his case I think cuts down on the amount of time for grandstanding and monkey business. Also the supreme court only hears about 100 cases a year. So we’re really only talking about an insignificant amount of television time. But in the interest of transparency and educating people on what really goes on in the most powerful branch of government I’m all for it.

  19. Then again… maybe cameras in the Court would be a jumping pointing for the Thomas for President campaign.

    1. Strip searchers for everyone!

      1. Er, strip searches that is…

        1. 220, 221…. whatever it takes…

  20. It’s just people TALKING for crying out loud. The oral arguments are easily available via transcript or for download. It’s perplexing to me why one would need more.

    1. Screenplays for movies can be bought, too. Why would anyone want to see an actual movie? It’s just a bunch of words devoid of facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, right?

      Logic fail for MNG … again.

      1. Sorry, but fail. In court the words spoken are (or should be) the only really important part. Not so in a movie.

    2. Ok, but what kind of argument is that? Shouldn’t the argument be:

      “It’s just people TALKING for crying out loud. The oral arguments are easily available via transcript or for download. It’s perplexing to me why one would need to restrict video recording.

      1. That “video camera” might actually be a video camera GUN!

  21. I can see no benefit, and some potential downsides.

    If I was a Justice, I’d say no.

  22. Is no one going to point out that neither Newark or Trenton are shore towns? Jesus…

  23. A recently published and very enlightening book, “Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J.Simpson,” sheds so much light on the entire Simpson trial debacle — particularly on the media coverage of it, including cameras, and the lasting impact all of that has had on public access to the courts and people’s understanding of the judiciary. Fascinating! Reads like a novel.

  24. I am for total transparency. I would want the judges deliberations and even all conversations between lawyer and client and prosecutors and investigators available for all to see. Let the chips fall —-

  25. It’s time for these activist judges and the whole liberal pond scum to get interned in Massachusetts and dumped into the ocean. Watch this, it’s hilarious:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..r_embedded

    Is it just me, though, or is everything in there TRUE? I especially like the idea of pushing the People’s Republic of Massachusetts into the ocean! HA.

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