Supreme Court

Put Cameras in the Supreme Court

Australia, Canada, and England all allow cameras in their high courts. So should the U.S.

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In February, Lord David Neuberger, the president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, addressed a conference in Northern Ireland on the topic of justice and security. Much of the speech addressed how the British judiciary deals with terrorism cases, but Lord Neuberger also emphasized the importance of broadcasting appeals court proceedings. "Unless justice is carried out publicly," Lord Neuberger said, "there is a real risk that the public will lose confidence in the justice system, and there is a real risk judicial standards will slip."

To that end, the UK Supreme Court streams all of its oral arguments live and online via Sky News. The Court also maintains its own YouTube channel, which contains the justices' explanations of their judgments. As Lord Neuberger explained, "A succession of cases has emphasized the importance of the public, and perhaps particularly the media, seeing what goes on in court, at least to the extent it is compatible with the administration of justice."

The British justices are not alone in their approach to transparency. Since the 1990s, the Supreme Court of Canada has televised all of its oral arguments on the Cable Public Affairs Channel, the northern counterpart of C-SPAN, which also maintains an online archive. Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin said in 2012 her court's "experience with television and webcasting has been positive." Justice McLachlin noted that unlike trials, which are not televised in Canada, "there is no possibility of [cameras] disrupting the decorum of the Court, nor, given the nature of debate before the Court, any real risk of sensationalisation or trivializing the hearings."

Other English-speaking appeals courts have similarly opened their proceedings up to the online world. Starting last October, the High Court of Australia makes video recordings of its hearings available after a few days delay. And while the Supreme Court of New Zealand does not maintain an online archive like its sister courts, it does approve "all applications to televise or otherwise record proceedings" unless a party to the case objects.

But perhaps no supreme court has shown a greater love of the cameras than Brazil's Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF). In 2002 the STF established its own broadcast network, TV Justica, which televises not just oral arguments but the justices' actual decision-making process. According to an account from a Brazilian law professor to University of Oregon journalism professor Kyu Ho Youm, in all cases decided on the merits, "the deliberations are held before the public and the decision is forged live on national TV."

And then there is the United States Supreme Court, which infamously bans all televised or online broadcasts of its proceedings. Retired Justice David H. Souter drew a line in the sand before a House of Representatives subcommittee in 1996, arguing "the case is so strong" against televising the Supreme Court's proceedings, "that I can tell you the day you see a camera come into our courtroom, it's going to roll over my dead body."

Other justices have offered a plethora of excuses for keeping the cameras out. Justice Clarence Thomas complained in 2008 that "regular appearances on TV would mean significant changes in the way my colleagues could conduct their lives." Justice Anton Scalia fretted that most viewers would only see 30-second out-of-context soundbites on the news. And in 2007, Justice Anthony Kennedy said televising oral arguments "would destroy a dynamic that is now really quite a splendid one" among members of the Court.

Yet the experiences of Canada, the United Kingdom, and other nations suggest there's little to fear from opening oral arguments to a worldwide audience. The U.S. Supreme Court already releases audio recordings and written transcripts. So why are the justices so defiant in keeping the doors closed to video broadcasts?

One thing to keep in mind is that in the United States, unlike the United Kingdom or Canada, Supreme Court justices are subject to a highly publicized (and politicized) confirmation process. As Justice Thomas has said, his contentious 1991 hearings destroyed his personal privacy, which is why he has been adamant that his colleagues retain some degree of "anonymity" from the public. Other justices, including John Roberts and Sonia Sotomayor, have hinted they'd be open to cameras at their confirmation hearings, only to backtrack once they are confirmed for life.

Indeed, outside of confirmation hearings (and interviews with C-SPAN's Brian Lamb), the question of cameras usually comes up when the justices make their annual appearance before Congress to testify about the Court's budget. Some members, like former Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, have gone so far as to propose legislation requiring the Court to televise its proceedings. This has led the justices to regard their personal distaste for cameras as some principled stand for the separation of powers.

But the issue should not be the Supreme Court's passive-aggressive relationship with Congress, but its accountability to the public. There is little reason any American should have confidence in the Court's decisions on issues like freedom of the press and government surveillance when the justices themselves continue to hide behind closed doors. This goes beyond transparency. The Court has isolated itself from the public it is supposed to serve. When justices talk about the loss of anonymity or the impact on their "dynamic," what they're really saying is they don't want to surrender their inflated self-image of the Court as a private club.

The British and Canadian experiences have already shattered the myth that cameras compromise the quality of appellate justice. Cameras are simply no big deal. As Lord Jonathan Mance, one of Lord Neuberger's colleagues on the United Kingdom's Supreme Court, told the Guardian in 2011, "I don't notice the cameras, I don't notice that I'm being filmed and I don't think it has any effect on judges' behavior."

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    1. So what happens when the temps continue to flat-line?

      1. They won’t even discuss it.

  1. Democrat confused that progressives are racists.

    The Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement against Israel is often seen as progressive ? so it’s astounding to see its supporters turn to racism.

    Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam, a blog focused on “exposing the excesses of the Israeli national-security state,” posted on his Facebook page, with a link to her piece: “They finally did it: found a Negro Zionist: Uncle Tom is dancin’ for joy!”

    He then says this:

    For many in the African-American community, the phrase “Uncle Tom” is as bad as, if not worse than, the N-word. The pejorative has historically been used against African-Americans seen as subservient to oppressive whites.

    If ‘many in the African American community’ feel that Uncle Tom is as bad as the N-word, then why do so many black people join with white racists in calling libertarian and conservative blacks Uncle Toms?

    1. You lit the Bo signal.

      1. Did you know that Bo has never been kissed by a girl?

        1. But Tulpa gives him a handjob every time they comment here.

          1. He was off the chain yesterday

        2. homophobe !

        3. is there a back story to this?

          1. https://reason.com/blog/2014/04…..nt_4443892

            This little string. Very amusing.

          2. No, not really.

            He was up to his childish trick of accusing folks of being neocons last night, without a shred of evidence. I mean pulling it out of his ass, type bullshit.

            I figured I’d start an equally baseless claim against him. (My way of implying he’s a nerdy little imp.)

            He hasn’t denied it.

            1. Gotcha – I read that thread this morning. Showed it to my wife for laughs and called Bo the “Witchfinder General” of H&R.

              I was just thinking there was some strange confession from him or somethin’.

              Bo reminds me of the law school “gunner” who sits in the front row and tries to dominate the classroom debates. *Raises hand* “Pick me, Pick me, professor!”

              1. Bo reminds me of the law school “gunner” who sits in the front row and tries to dominate the classroom debates.

                Yeah I think there’s a reason he reminds you of that guy.

              2. Witchfinder General?!? Or…the Conqueror Worm?

                1. I watched Witchfinder General last night – so it’s kind of stuck in my head.

              3. Bo reminds me of the law school “gunner” who sits in the front row and tries to dominate the classroom debates. *Raises hand* “Pick me, Pick me, professor!”

                That is also the guy who couldn’t get laid in a whorehouse. Thus…the never kissed a girl shtick.

    2. Silverstein compounds his ignorance in an algorithmic way but not only using viciously racist language toward Ms. Valdary, but his slurs aren’t even accurate. What the hell does he mean “finally”? What are the 150,000 Ethiopian-Israelis, chopped liver?

      1. Gah! “exponential” not “algorithmic”…fucking allergy pills.

        1. “Algorithmic” is accurate as well, and it has a nicer poetry about it.

          1. I would’ve used orgasmic.

    3. The Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement against Israel is often seen as progressive ? so it’s astounding to see its supporters turn to racism.

      Yes, it’s all just so baffling that an anti-Israel movement might attract anti-Semites.

      They finally did it: found a Negro Zionist: Uncle Tom is dancin’ for joy!

      Methinks someone has never heard of Beta Israel…

      1. Someone better not tell Silverstein about these two South Africans, he would die from an aneurysm .

      2. They couldn’t find a real black person who is a zionist. This is significant because any entirely white movement is obviously evil and flawed.

  2. “Put Cameras in the Supreme Court”

    Agreed. What, are these weenies afraid of what they’ll look like?
    The whole thing is sorta like golfers who demand silence. Screw ’em, hit the damn ball; baseball and football players put up with noise.

    1. It would entirely worthless to bringing transparency to the “deliberations” of Clarence Thomas.

      I suspect the other SCOTUS judges might start emulating Thomas and STFU more if cameras were recording them.

  3. I made a short film about my rape and now I can’t get laid

    Last summer, I made a short film called “Meet My Rapist,” a dark comedy about running into my rapist at the farmers market. The film was inspired by my frustration at not being able to “get over” my own rape, no matter how much therapy I went through. The movie helped me confront the effect my rape had on my identity, relationships and sexuality[…] I was overwhelmed with the film’s reception, particularly from other sexual abuse survivors.

    Giggling like a schoolgirl, I skipped to the film’s afterparty, ready to celebrate my newfound liberation by drinking my favorite bottle of boxed wine and flirting with some dudes with ironic mustaches.

    Yet as the party began, I found myself on the dance floor twerking all alone.

    Uh, no shit lady. Y’all just finished watching a film about rape (*your* rape, in specific), not a Sandra Bullock RomCom.

    I was so horny I even called my ex-boyfriend at 3am claiming my toilet was clogged. Reluctantly, he came over, but when he arrived he didn’t want to unclog my pipes?he wanted Chamomile fucking tea and he wanted to talk. “Jess, I saw your movie,” he choked up as he pushed me off his lap. “That’s some heavy shit.”

    What an abnormal reaction. Who among us wouldn’t immediately thrust their member into a lady upon learning of her rape?

    1. Nothing attracts men like telling the world you had a traumatic sexual experience you can’t get over.

      1. Sadly it does attract a certain type of man, “the White Knight”.

        1. I hate those guys. Ken Schultz in particular.

          1. Don’t get me started on Schultz.

      2. I would argue this is actually the fault of the left. If rape were treated like a traumatic and horrible action that people can get over and which you are able to survive, then people wouldn’t feel so awkward when hanging around or sleeping with sexual assault victims.

        Instead, rape is treated like a unique crime of violence, wholly unlike anything else in the annals of human experience. Victims are treated as if they will *never* recover from the trauma and will be victimized anew day in and day out by a whole host of triggers the uncaring world forces upon them.

        This victim complex means that someone who has once been victimized by sexual assault is treated like nothing but a victim for the rest of her life. Every other aspect of her personality is consumed by one night in which she was made a victim. She has no other aspect of her persona except the fact that she is a rape victim.

        Is it therefore surprising that people have a hard time treating her like a normal person after finding out she was sexually assaulted?

        1. Yes. The Left has made being a “victim” a self satisfying identity of its own. It is no surprise that we now have a lot of people who don’t get over traumas and remain forever victims.

        2. In a large sense, yes, it is “a unique crime of violence.” Yes, many women never quite recover from the mental shock, and many recover in the sense of not letting it define their lives, but they are never the same afterwards.

          I’m speaking here of violent, forcible rape, not, “Well, I went up to his room, we drank a few boxes of wine, and the next thing I know it’s dawn and there’s jizz in my ass.”

      3. You have to wonder how, in a pervasive rape culture, the first reaction of its ostensible perpetrators is empathy rather than sexual interest or shaming.

        It’s the sort of evidence that would make you re-examine the idea of ‘rape culture’ as a valid descriptor for Western society’s treatment of sexual assault.

        1. You would think a “rape culture” is a culture like say in the Middle East where raping an unwilling wife is considered a husband’s right. In those culture a man who didn’t rape his frigid wife is considered less of a man.

          Oddly, I have never heard of any man being socially rewarded for rape in this country. I guess feminists think men reward and cheer rapists in the secret meetings of the Elders of the Patriarchy or something.

          1. Do they think we have our meetings in men’s bathrooms.

            1. Locker rooms. They don’t call it “locker room humor” for nothing.

    2. Wait…aren’t feminists always talking about how men aren’t entitled to sex?

      That’s one of the few times I wholeheartedly agree with them, but wouldn’t the same argument apply to women?

      1. What I think the point of her batshit insane slice-of-life story was that mean ol’ men won’t have sex with her because she’s somehow “tainted” by her rape, thus PATRIARCHY!

        Lady, you fucking sewed that scarlet letter on your breast yourself. Don’t blame men for having a logical aversion to someone who is obviously emotionally manipulative and irrational.

      2. wouldn’t the same argument apply to women?

        Does it ever?

      3. Where did she say she was entitled to sex? Since when does “entitled” mean “wants something and is upset she isn’t getting it”? I think people throw around “entitled” way too loosely, when it’s about someone thinking they’re owed something, which certainly isn’t what she’s claimed here.

        1. Yeah. I don’t think complaining you can’t get laid implies that you think you are entitled to sex.

        2. If a man wrote an article saying ‘I did X, now women won’t sleep with me’ he would be called entitled.

          I’m not saying that’s a reasonable definition, just that by the definition feminists themselves use this is an example.

        3. Where did she say she was entitled to sex?

          I don’t think that’s it. Although I do wonder what the standard feminist position on late night booty calls is. Do they have one?

          1. A late night booty call is a form of gender performance. Since it is traditionally the male who performs their gender by making said booty call, such an action on his part is considered a heteronormative expression and reinforcing of existing gender norms, which is a Bad Thing. OTOH, when a woman does it she is reclaiming her sexual identity from a male-dominated world, and therefore her initiation of the booty call is an avant garde attempt to eschew the gendered assumptions that we are all bound by.

            Or something. Look, I’m not a gender expert, I just play one on TV.

          2. It depends on who made the call.

            Woman= good

            Man= exploitation

            It’s very simple to understand.

    3. What did she expect? I wouldn’t have sex with a chick who made a movie about her experiences in the psych ward either. Neither scenario is necessarily her fault, but have the potential to significantly fuck up my life if I go there.

      Also, I’d need to know the specifics. A no-shit knife to the throat rape is significantly different than a “I thought about it after and decided I really didn’t want to have sex with you after all” rape. The first, I’d be more apt to “be with” a woman experiencing the former and wouldn’t go near the latter.

      1. Or, worse, the “you didn’t cuddle and talk with me afterwards to my satisfaction and then stay the night and cook me breakfast in the morning and call me the next day so I retroactively decided it was rape” rape.

        1. This line from the article, “I finish off my warm PBR as my date, Mr. ScruffyBeard GyroBreath, takes a step back glaring at me like my tits are covered in anthrax.”

          Because nothing like being contemptuous of your date is more likely to enhance his desire to put his penis inside you, if he is at all well-adjusted.

          (I’ll stipulate that there are men out there who would be turned on by such contempt.)

    4. When I was a wee lad of 16, I had a 19yo girlfriend who had been raped a few months before we started dating.

      I was – of course – upset that she had been treated that way. And not knowing her level of “damage”, decided to let her drive the sexual end of the relationship at her pace. It took her awhile to get used to sex again, but even at that uber-horny age I knew better than to push it. Of course I wasn’t disinterested, but it was kind of freaky (for a 16yo) to handle.

    5. Who among us wouldn’t immediately thrust their member into a lady upon learning of her rape?

      Well, if one suspected her of falsely accusing the guy of rape, a bit of wariness might be in order.

      That being said, if she was actually raped and wanted the comfort of sex and was attractive, why not?

  4. OT: I just turned on msnbc for shits and gigs. It took a whole five seconds before they started crying “racist” over criticism of Eric Holder. I am dumbfounded as to how this network still exists, especially with the audacity to call themselves a “news” network.

  5. Observation changes what is observed. Putting cameras in any court just causes the people in court to act for the camera.

    Since when is something open to the public, albeit with limited seating, “behind closed doors”? All of the oral arguments are witnessed and reported on. The public knows what happens in them.

    Beyond that, the decision isn’t made in oral argument. It is made in writing. This is why Clearance Thomas never asks any questions. They are generally useless in deciding the case. You could say that means that broadcasting them won’t harm the process the way it does in trial courts. That is a valid point, but it also means there is no reason to broadcast them even if they doing so doesn’t do any damage.

    1. …”it also means there is no reason to broadcast them even if they doing so doesn’t do any damage.”

      Nope. At least we’d be able to see the judges asking the questions and body language is part of communication.

      1. You can see that now. Just go up and watch the court. Since when does “this should be open to the public” mean “we must broadcast this to every home in America”?

        If that is important to you, go watch it. There are seats available for most arguments.

        1. John|4.13.14 @ 1:09PM|#
          “You can see that now. Just go up and watch the court.”

          Yeah, John, I’ll just drive to DC to do that.
          Sorry, that is a very good reason to broadcast the hearings.

          1. So what? It is still open to the public.

            1. In roughly the same sense that “free speech zones” consisting of a wired enclosure similar to a prison, far away from the person or thing being protested, is “allowing full First Amendment rights”

          2. Exactly, Sevo, I’m in Monatana and my only unbiased access to the shenanigans in the District is to see pols on Cspan where it comes out of the horse’s mouth.

            I don’t care that 85% of the people don’t give a fuck or are too stupid to care, but I’m paying their salary and deserve to know what they are up to.

            That John would think seeing stupid by Kagan, Roberts or Sotomayor live means anything more than we get to see stupid live. Sorry, that’s a good thing John and you are an idiot if you are willing to accept this lack of play by play access by we, the people…fuck off bro.

        2. They have a couple of million folding chairs in the next room that they can set up in case it’s an important issue.

    2. Aren’t they audio recorded too?

      1. I think so.

  6. http://www.the-american-intere…..-medicine/

    Anyone a member of a concierge medical service?

    1. The doctor I had since I was 13 recently went concierge. If I were in my 60s it would certainly be a good deal for me, but at my age the price of the service compared to what I need a physician for, and for how often, just wasn’t worth it. So I switched to another doctor in the practice he used to work for.

    2. I am but not necessarily like the article you linked to.

      I pay cash for treatment to the Doctor for regular and small costs but I don’t have to pay upfront for big ticket items.

      http://www.libertyhealth.org/

      I lost my BCBS insurance during the Great Recession and this is my answer to Obamacare.

      My monthlies ( $300 for couple) are 1/3 of what O’care would be and the wifey and I have $500 deductibles each. It puts O’care to shame. Even the Huffington Post has posted a seriously negative article on Obamacare so you know it’s truly bad.

      http://www.breitbart.com/Big-J…..s-Are-Real

      1. It’s amazing. Was it not predited that once Obamacare would fizzle the call for single payer/universal care would come? Notice how fast in the threads they begin to assert that’s the only way to go. Never mind Obamacare failed, time for universal care!

        Then come the jealousy smart-alec remarks:

        “I have to be honest, I think it’s unfair of us to ask doctors to take a cut and possibly have to downsize from the 7 series BMW to the 5 series BMW.”

  7. http://www.powerlineblog.com/a…..so-far.php

    I love the photo.

    1. I like the 1st amendment area chart.

      1. Except that it is inaccurate.

        According to a unilateral decision by the DHS a “Constitution Free Zone” extends inland 100 miles from all US borders and coastlines.

        For the life of me I cannot understand why an agency of the US government can make such a declaration and begin to enforce it without a public uproar is beyond my comprehension.

        1. Game of fucking Thrones is on. Ain’t nobody got time for revolution.

  8. Interesting… veeeery interesting

    Ponder the graph above. Sixty-nine per cent of Labour supporters would want a top rate tax of 50 per cent even if it brought in no money[…]

    In her last Commons appearance as prime minister, Margaret Thatcher was asked by Simon Hughes whether she was proud of the fact that, for all her undoubted successes, inequality had widened during her eleven years in office. She replied magisterially:

    The hon. Gentleman is saying that he would rather that the poor were poorer, provided that the rich were less rich.

    Indeed. But here’s the funny thing. We have before us an exact case-study of what Simon Hughes ? and the 69 per cent ? say they want. Following the credit crunch, inequality fell. City salaries plummeted, average salaries fell slightly, benefits stagnated. In other words, the 69 per cent got their way: Britain became poorer and more equal.

    Unbelievable. Everyday the axiom “taxes are the price we pay for civilization” rings more and more hollow, and everyday it becomes more clear that taxes (especially wealth taxes) are the wages of human envy.

    1. The fact that rich people exist is proof that they don’t pay their fair share! If they paid their fair share then they wouldn’t be rich!

    2. Envy is a vastly more powerful motivator than many people realize. I remember as a kid meeting other kids who were viciously, vituperously hateful of “rich people”. They were absolutely hateful of them, and I just didn’t understand why. Why did they care that someone else had more? Didn’t they have their own selves to look after? Because they sure cared a hell of lot more that someone had more than them than they did about bettering their own situation. It was pure jealousy and envy, which are some of the most disgusting human emotions we have. Jealousy and envy motivate people to destroy others with no gain to themselves.

    3. Envy is a vastly more powerful motivator than many people realize. I remember as a kid meeting other kids who were viciously, vituperously hateful of “rich people”. They were absolutely hateful of them, and I just didn’t understand why. Why did they care that someone else had more? Didn’t they have their own selves to look after? Because they sure cared a hell of lot more that someone had more than them than they did about bettering their own situation. It was pure jealousy and envy, which are some of the most disgusting human emotions we have. Jealousy and envy motivate people to destroy others with no gain to themselves.

  9. Transparency and accountability are for the little people.

  10. But then, next thing you know, it’ll be sausage factories….

  11. If you put cameras in the court make sure the producer is Harvey Levin.

    It’s not entertainment if there aren’t cheerleaders, tits and Duffman in the court.

  12. Just do it man, I mean like serioustl.

    http://www.GotsDatAnon.tk

  13. So did the Reason Comment section just turn into the other Reddit? I thought this was where you talked about whether the Supreme court should allow cameras?

  14. Giggling like a schoolgirl, I skipped to the film’s afterparty, ready to celebrate my newfound liberation by drinking my favorite bottle of boxed wine and flirting with some dudes with ironic mustaches.

  15. Not only do I not want cameras in the Supream Court, but get them out of the house and senate, the hearings, and the lower courts. It helps nothing to have them on camera, and we get speaches instead of work.

  16. It’s a good idea but the arguments against shouldn’t be so easily dismissed. Australia, Canada, and England already have cameras in their highest courts but those countries also have smarter voters than we do.

    We have a 24-hour news cycle that rapidly darts from topic to topic, few of which are taken seriously for very long. Constitutional law is a slow, deliberative process, and can’t be given its due if its boiled down to a few soundbite that are taken out of context. SCOTUS is already too political, and subjecting it to constant media hysteria will not improve that. Justices don’t need to cater their statements to CNN (we have Congress for that) and I shudder to think what a narcissistic blowhard like Scalia would do with that spotlight.

    Release footage of the court’s proceedings, sure, but please do so after a delay of a month or two. That way people who don’t really care about the court and are too shallow to appreciate the complexities of federal jurisprudence will already have moved on to other fleeting fascinations. So put the Supreme Court on TV. Hell, give the Justices their own reality show while you’re at it. But when you do that just be ready for more opinions like Bush v Gore.

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