C-Span Petitions Supreme Court To Televise Hearings On Health Care Law

C-Span has formally petitioned the Supreme Court for permission to televise the 5 1/2 hour oral argument on the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act:

Ruling on the health reform law is sure to be one of the most important Supreme Court cases of this generation and the court has budgeted more than 5 hours for the arguments. When the court decides next year if the government can require every American to buy health insurance or pay a fee, they’ll make a decision that effects every citizen in the country.

But unless the court changes current policy, none but the few Americans able to score a ticket or stand in line will be able to watch the arguments.

C-Span’s Brian Lamb sent a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts today asking him to permit C-Span to televise the health care oral arguments, which pit lawyers for 26 states the federal government.

“We believe the public interest is best served by live television coverage of this particular oral argument” Lamb says in the letter and adds the case “will affect every American’s life, our economy, and will certainly be an issue in the upcoming presidential campaign.”

No hearing at the Supreme Court has ever been televised. The arguments will be held in the end of March over 5 ½ hours. Lamb says the length of time “begs” for camera coverage. The chambers can seat up to450, but that includes lawyers for both sides, the public and the press.

Personally, I think think this is a great idea. There have been experiments with this idea at the Court of Appeals level and they’ve worked out spectacularly. Considering that this is perhaps the most significant case to be argued before the Court in decades, I think it’s entirely appropriate.

Here’s the letter from Brian Lamb:

Letter from Brian Lamb to Chief Justice Roberts

FILED UNDER: Healthcare Policy, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    “ey guys, I see that C-SPAN is going to show the Supreme Court hearings on the affordable care act today. We should really watch…no wait, “The Simpsons–A retrospective” is on at the same time, and the White Sox-Mariners game after that. We can’t miss those. Never mind.”

  2. In Brazil the Supreme Court hearings are televised. This politicized everything that the Court does, including the approval of a demagogic anticorruption law and of Gay Marriage(Maybe that´s not bad).

    That also destroyed the Casey Anthony trial. She could never have a fair trial with all that media coverage…

  3. Vast Variety says:

    @André Kenji de Sousa: The Casey Anthony trail wasn’t destroyed by having cameras in the court. It was the sensationaliztion of it by the news media which would have occurred regardless of the cameras.

    It’s long past time that C-Span cameras were allowed in the Supreme Court as well as all other Federal Courts. Exceptions can be made when it’s required.

    The Prop 8 case is another great example of why C-Span should be in all Federal Courts.

  4. Andre Kenji says:

    “The Casey Anthony trail wasn’t destroyed by having cameras in the court. It was the sensationaliztion of it by the news media which would have occurred regardless of the cameras”

    That´s the problem. The cameras just increases the sensationazation of news, and puts too much political pressure where there shouldn´t be any.

  5. Steve says:

    SCOTUS has nothing to gain by letting the cameras in the court. Everybody who had a decision they disagreed with would pull out some highly edited Oral argument and plaster it all over Youtube.

    The Audio is already available anyway