With Scalia Gone, Lawmakers Make Renewed Push for Cameras in the High Court
Nearly a year after the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, debate surrounding the filming of Supreme Court proceedings has come up again.
Scalia was a vocal critic of installing the technology in the chamber because he worried the tapes would be used for political purposes and warp the high court’s independence.
But he’s gone and Gerald E. Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, and Ted Poe, a Texas Republican and ex-Harris County, Texas, judge, have reintroduced House legislation (HR 464) that would allow for the court’s hearings to be televised much like Congress is by C-SPAN.
Poe believes the change in protocol is just common sense. He famously tried in 2002 to allow a PBS film crew to tape jury deliberations in a capital case. A Texas appeals court overruled him, but Poe did allow the filmmakers to tape the trial.
“All the naysayers said ‘Oh, it won’t work,’ but it did,” he says. “It benefited everyone. It is better to show all of the proceedings to the public than to rely on a 30-second sound bite from a news reporter on television during the 6 o’clock news.”
The Supreme Court has 400 seats for viewing, but only a small, varying percentage of that is allocated for the general public to witness daily court proceedings (some days it’s 100, others it’s 50). Audio recordings of oral arguments are available online.
That’s not enough, says Poe: “Public court hearings are the bedrock of American justice. Americans want to know what is going on behind those closed doors.”
A recent Gallup/USA Today poll that found that 72 percent of adults from across the political spectrum support allowing the filming of Supreme Court proceedings.