Justice Ginsburg and the Need for SCOTUS Cameras

Justice Ginsburg and the Need for SCOTUS Cameras.jpg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has missed the last week of Supreme Court oral argument.

I want to make a point about this, a really important point.

The Hill’s coverage explained the situation this way:

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was absent from the Supreme Court bench for a second consecutive day on Tuesday, raising concerns about whether her recent health scares will keep her off the bench for a prolonged period of time.

Chief Justice John Roberts noted Ginsburg’s absence when the justices took their seats for oral arguments, repeating his remarks from Monday in which he said Ginsburg is ‘unable to be present’ for the court’s sitting…”

Now here’s the key part:

“…but will participate in the decisions using transcripts of the arguments and court briefs. The 85-year-old justice missed her first oral argument this week in more than 25 years as she recuperates at home following a surgical procedure on Dec. 21 that removed two cancerous nodules from the lower lobe of her left lung.”

Well, I take note of the fact that she’ll participate in the decisions with “transcripts of the arguments and court briefs.” Roberts didn’t even make reference to the audio recordings that are made of Supreme Court arguments.

But here’s what it brought to my mind…

Last week, Kevin Spacey was arraigned in Nantucket, and we all watched it. Why? Because there were cameras in the courtroom. This is a great example as to why there should be cameras in the United States courtroom.

You have a right, assuming you stand in line and wait to get in, to go and sit and watch the proceedings of the Supreme Court of the United States. Why shouldn’t we all be able to watch without having to go there? Why shouldn’t Justice Ginsburg be able to watch the week’s Court arguments given her own absence?

And you know who I think agrees with me on this issue? Justice Ginsburg herself.

Sen. Oren Hatch:

“Are you for or against TV coverage of the Court? I have a number of people on the committee who have asked that question; I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it. And if you don’t happen to have an opinion, I’ll hear that as well.”

Justice Ginsburg:

“Senator Hatch, on a question like that, I spoke about the C-SPAN interview with me. And I thought how unfortunate it was that they couldn’t have [cameras] because we didn’t allow it at the time – television of the proceeding itself. My view on that is: I don’t see any problem with having any proceedings being televised. I think it would be good for the public. You know, we have open hearings. The concern, as I think I may have mentioned, is the television…

If it’s gavel to gavel, I don’t see any problem at all in an appellate court. I know the concern has been expressed at the trial level, but we’ve come a long way from the days of the Shepard case when the camera was very intrusive, and there were all kinds of equipment that could be distracting. The concern is about distortion- because of the editing if the editing is not controlled.”


“I understand; that’s good enough for me. I would be concerned about the editing too. You’re saying gavel to gavel, you’re for?”


“Yes. Yes. But I would be very respectful of the views of my colleagues.”

Interesting, right? She was right then, and the argument is even stronger today. There should be cameras.

There should be a televising of that which goes on in the Supreme Court of the United States.