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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Courts - "Lights, camera, Supreme Court: It's about time "

Maureen O'Connor, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, had this excellent op-ed in the Dec. 20th LA Times. A sample:

Every state Supreme Court allows cameras. And in November, Britain — whose legal establishment is so conservative that some judges and attorneys still wear powdered wigs — lifted its 88-year-old ban on cameras in its Court of Appeal. And its highest court began televising cases in 2009.

The U.S. Supreme Court is now one of the last major institutions of Western civilization that has not entered the 21st century technologically. I join with those in a growing movement calling on the justices to change that.

When Justice David H. Souter uttered his now-infamous declaration in 1996 that cameras would roll into the Supreme Court over his dead body, the Internet was relatively new and Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the iPhone were as real as Capt. Kirk's communicator. Today, there are few facets of daily life that are not available instantly online, including many criminal trials, which you can even watch on your mobile device at 30,000 feet.

What this has done is create an expectation by the public that if something is truly important, it can be witnessed firsthand. Nearly every institution of democratic government has responded. Online access — and particularly video — is routine, whether for local town hall meetings or presidential announcements.

The Supreme Court's oral arguments stand as the lone exception. The court views itself as truly exceptional, fundamentally unique from all other institutions in a way that cameras would somehow spoil.

The problem with this view is that after three decades of other courts using cameras, we don't have to speculate about the effects. In Ohio, we have been broadcasting our cases live on television and the Internet for almost 10 years. The evidence shows that cameras in the courtrooms are a positive experience.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 22, 2013 09:58 AM
Posted to Courts in general