Elena Kagan Supportive Of Cameras At The Supreme Court
One of the many smaller issues that have come up in the days since President Obama named Elena Kagan to replace Justice John Paul Stevens is the revelation that Kagan is apparently open to the idea of allowing oral argument in the nation’s highest court to be televised:
In addition to meeting with Brown and Collins on Thursday, Kagan stopped by the offices of five key Senate Democrats: Massachusetts’ John Kerry, New York’s Chuck Schumer, Maryland’s Ben Cardin, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter.
Specter said Kagan may be open to the idea of allowing television coverage of Supreme Court hearings.
“She said it’d be helpful to the public and to the court,” he said. “This was the best answer I’ve gotten” from any recent Supreme Court candidate.
Specter is a staunch advocate of allowing television cameras into the high court. Most justices, however, have adamantly opposed the idea.
Kagan’s remarks to Specter mirror comments she made at a Judicial Conference last year:
If cameras were in the courtroom, the American public would see an amazing and extraordinary event. This court I think is so smart and so prepared and so engaged. And everybody who gets up there at the podium is — the toughest questions, the most challenging questions are thrown at that person.
The Court has been far more open to making it’s proceedings public in recent years than it has in the past. Audio recordings of oral argument are made available on a regular basis, rather than being archived for years. In some cases, such as the oral argument two years ago in District of Columbia v. Heller, the landmark Second Amendment case, those recordings were made available to the public immediately after oral argument had concluded. It wouldn’t be that much of a stretch, then, for the Court to agree to allow C-Span cameras into it’s historic courtroom.
There are, of course, plenty of arguments against televising Court proceedings, and Exhibit A on anyone’s list would be the O.J. Simpson trial. Appellate Courts, though, strike me as being so completely different from trial courts that concerns about attorneys or judges grandstanding for the camera are much more remote. In all honesty, most of the cases that the Supreme Court, or any of the Federal appellate-level Courts, hear on a regular basis aren’t ones that would garner that much interest from the general public. It’s the exceptions, though, the Bush v. Gore’s, or the Heller’s, that argue strongly in favor of lifting the last veil of secrecy and letting Americans see their system at work.