The Supreme Court has long resisted efforts to televise its proceedings, with Justice David Souter declaring in 1996 that if TV cameras ever enter the courtroom, they'll "roll over my dead body." Well, Souter has retired, and the Supreme Court's decision to rule next year on the fate of the Affordable Care Act — a.k.a. "ObamaCare" — has renewed calls for televised arguments. On Tuesday, C-SPAN chief Brian Lamb made a formal request, arguing that the justices should let cameras in because this case affects "every American's life, our economy, and certainly will be an issue in the upcoming presidential campaign." Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) echoed C-SPAN's request. Are the 5 1/2 hours of "ObamaCare" hearings the right time to debut SCOTUS TV?
Televising the hearings is a no-brainer: This change is long overdue, says former Sen. Arlen Specter (R D-Pa.) in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Other branches of government routinely broadcast their deliberations. "Televised congressional hearings, especially on Supreme Court nominations, have already drawn extensive audiences" and helped educate the nation. Plus, the Supreme Court itself has recognized in the past "that the Constitution guarantees judicial proceedings that are open to the media as well as the public." If the justices won't let the cameras roll, Congress should force their hands.
"TV could boost Supreme Court's ratings"
This transparency is years too late: Transparency would have been far more beneficial "back when all Americans should have had a stake in the debate," says Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin's blog, when "ObamaCare" was being written behind closed doors, and Nancy Pelosi had the attitude that "you have to pass it to find out what's in it." Now, sadly, "the opinion of anybody who isn't wearing a SCOTUS robe" doesn't really matter.
"Nancy Pelosi: The ObamaCare SCOTUS arguments should be transparent…"
The cameras could actually help the justices: There are lots of legal reasons to bring in the cameras, and "the arguments against them have largely dwindled away," says Emily Badger at Miller-McCune. Still, the "most compelling argument... may be that the court itself could benefit from cameras." If the ACA ruling splits the court 5-4, the justices have every reason to share their deliberations with the nation, so Americans can rest assured that this is a legal dispute, not a political one.
"Making a case for televising the Supreme Court"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- What political elites don't understand about Scotland's push for independence
- Why gay people of color are still losing
- Do you need to be crazy to be the best?
- Is 'feminism' just another word for 'liberalism'?
- In defense of family dinner
Subscribe to the Week