Cameras in court

During her confirmation hearing  Tuesday, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan endorsed the idea of allowing television cameras in the high court.

But advocates of such an idea are not holding their breath.

There has long been resistance to allowing Supreme Court proceedings to be televised.

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Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter once testified to Congress that “the day you see a camera come into our courtroom, it’s going to roll over my dead body.”

In 1988, C-SPAN founder and CEO Brian Lamb wrote to then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the issue. More than two decades later, the debate continues.

Still, there is momentum for the idea even though one of its biggest champions on Capitol Hill, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), lost his primary last month and will not be back in the 112th Congress to fight for it.

Souter has retired and the court has changed with the 2009 confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor and the likely arrival of Kagan.

On Tuesday, Kagan told Senate Judiciary Committee members, “I think it would be a terrific thing to have cameras in the courtroom. And the reason, I think, is when you see what happens there, it’s an inspiring sight.”

Sotomayor last year suggested she supports cameras in the Supreme Court.

Earlier this year, Justice Stephen Breyer told House appropriators that cameras will “inevitably” be permitted in the high court.

But not every justice is on board.

According to the authoritative SCOTUSblog, Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia are opposed.

Chief Justice John Roberts has expressed tentative support, as has Justice Samuel Alito.

In a 2005 interview, Scalia said he doesn’t favor cameras because “we don’t want to become entertainment. I think there’s something sick about making entertainment out of other people’s legal problems.”

Allowing cameras into the House and Senate has certainly led to grandstanding from members, but allowing the public to see the people’s business has had many more pros than cons.

And it’s worth noting that unlike members of Congress, Supreme Court justices do not run for reelection. Cameras in the high court would be more informative than entertaining.

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In a recent interview with The Hill, SCOTUSblog publisher Tom Goldstein said the Supreme Court has not embraced advances in technology, noting it was hesitant to have a website.

According to a new C-SPAN poll, 62 percent of voters said they hear too little about the work of the Supreme Court, while 3 percent contend they hear too much.

Television cameras won’t be installed in the Supreme Court anytime soon. But their time is coming.