Senate

Sasse points to ‘jack-assery’ in Senate to oppose cameras at Supreme Court

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) gives an opening statement during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Monday, March 21, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) made the case against televising Supreme Court arguments, arguing the “jack-assery” seen in the Senate is a good reason to keep cameras out of the nation’s highest court’s proceedings.

Sasse made the remarks at the confirmation hearing of Ketanji Brown Jackson, which has featured a number of moments where senators in both parties have seemingly been playing to the cameras.

“I get their position that transparency is a virtue. Transparency is a good thing,” Sasse said before raising the potential pitfalls of more cameras.

“A huge part of why this institution doesn’t work well is because we have cameras everywhere. Cameras change human behavior. We know this. … There’s a whole bunch of things humans can do if they’re not immediately mindful of some distant camera audience that they might be trying to create a soundbite for,” Sasse said.

“I think we should recognize that the jack-assery we often see around here is partly because of people mugging for short-term camera opportunities, and it is definitely a second and third and fourth order effect that the court should think through before it has advocates in there who are not only trying to persuade you nine justices, but also trying to get on cable that night or create a viral video.”

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the top two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, last year introduced legislation that would require the Supreme Court to televise proceedings unless a majority of justices agreed that doing so would violate due process rights of those before the court.

Sasse said it should be left up to the Supreme Court justices, not Congress, to determine whether to allow cameras in the courtroom, while acknowledging that a number of senators support doing so. 

“For what it’s worth, I’m glad that you on the court are making that decision, and I hope it isn’t made for you by the Congress,” he said.

Tags Ben Sasse Chuck Grassley Dick Durbin Ketanji Brown Jackson Supreme Court

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