Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cameras at the Court

SCOTUSblog's new "Community" feature recently had an open comment thread about televising arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court. This is a comment I left on the topic (reprinted, with other comments, here):

There have been signs of hope, including a pilot video program in the lower courts, as well as increased access to transcripts and audio, both now on the Court’s website.

This summer, Chief Justice Roberts listed these developments in a presentation to the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference. The Court is, Roberts said, “moving in a particular direction.” The Chief made clear that “movement will be gradual” and that the Court is especially concerned about video, but I hear progress in his comments.

Though still disappointing to the media, the audio change—from yearly to weekly release (online)—was a huge leap forward for access. (As someone who has waited months for audio and then schlepped to the National Archives to get it, I can say this personally.) Hopefully, similar steps are to come. For instance, I could see same-day audio being offered, as it is now for transcripts. The Court could gauge effects it fears (e.g., Does same-day reporting of voice snippets negatively affect the live presentation?), without launching headlong into video just yet.

Will cameras at the Court beat the next batch of Brood X cicadas to Washington, D.C. (ten more years)? I don’t know, but I think there is something more pleasant, but equally inevitable and organic happening with cameras. They are coming.

Roberts Presentation (see discussion starting at 41:15): http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/300203-1