Saturday, December 10, 2011

Televising the Supreme Court

Gallup reports:
Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 72%, think television cameras should be allowed into the U.S. Supreme Court when it hears oral arguments in its upcoming review of President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

These are Americans' basic reactions to courtroom cameras when asked a question that does not provide the pro and con arguments on the issue. These findings are from a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Dec. 6.

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Last month the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to rule on the constitutionality of President Obama's healthcare law to settle the legal challenges several states have brought. C-Span immediately asked the Supreme Court to break its long-standing prohibition on television cameras in the courtroom and allow it to cover the five-and-a-half hours of scheduled testimony in the case. While the Supreme Court has traditionally decided on its own whether to admit cameras, the Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2011, if passed, would require it. Congress recently held hearings on the issue, with leaders from both parties expressing support for televised proceedings.

Americans' widespread support for televising testimony in the healthcare case is greater than what Gallup found in December 2000 when asking about the Supreme Court's ban on cameras, in general. At that time, a bare majority of Americans, 50%, said the court should allow television coverage when they hear arguments; 48% said it should not.

As for Americans' views on the healthcare law itself, Gallup recently found 47% in favor of repealing it and 42% wanting it maintained.

Maureen Mahoney, a former clerk to Chief Justice Rehnquist and deputy solicitor general who has argued 21 cases before the Court, testified at the hearing:
Oral argument is a core part of the Court’s deliberative process. As Justice Kennedy explained in testimony to Congress, at oral argument “[w]e are talking with each other” and “we are using the attorney to have a conversation with ourselves and with the attorney.” While deference to all federal courts on these types of internal deliberative issues is appropriate, special deference is owed to the Supreme Court. Unlike the lower federal courts, which Congress created, the Supreme Court was established by the Constitution itself. Congress has recognized the special
status of the Supreme Court in the constitutional structure and declined to assert any supervisory authority over the promulgation of Supreme Court rules. Legislation requiring televised arguments would be an historic departure from Congress’s longstanding practice of noninterference with the Court’s deliberative process—which has served to fulfill the Founders’ view that the “complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution.

Here is video of the Senate hearing: