Monday, February 12, 2007

SCOTUS: The Movie?

Senator Arlen Specter has once again introduced legislation to put cameras in the Supreme Court, citing the increased willingness of Justices to speak with the media.

I think it's a bad idea. It's not as if the transcripts of oral arguments are unavailable, or spectators excluded, or the reasoning of the Justices concealed. But it would mean that video clips would be shown - necessarily out of context due to time constraints - nightly on the news. And lawyers may attempt to play more to the audience at home than to address the specifics of the legal questions to the judges. In how many political ads might an out-of-context reducto ad absurdum hypothetical posed to an attorney appear?

And frankly, I think any courtroom cameras invite a profound collapse of dignity. Think Judge Judy. Or the OJ trial.

Limiting the public access to either live attendance or easily available transcripts limits the contextual problems unique to video without sacrificing transparency - or dignity.

Other thoughts?

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