Justice Scalia: Cameras in Supreme Court would 'miseducate' Americans


"Your outfit would carry it all, to be sure, but what most of the American people would see would be 30 second, 15 second take-outs from our argument, and those take-outs would not be characteristic of what we do, they would be uncharacteristic," he told C-SPAN.

C-SPAN has argued that allowing television cameras in the courtroom would be in the public's best interest. Several bipartisan members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), advocated to lift the ban against cameras in the courtroom for the recent healthcare case. The court's decision on the constitutionality of the legislation generated high public interest. However, the Supreme Court refused.

Scalia came down strongly against the cameras, rejecting the idea that a First Amendment argument could be made in favor of broadcast access for the general public's viewing. 

"The First Amendment has nothing to do with whether we have to televise our proceedings," he said. "I am indeed [an advocate of the First Amendment] and it doesn't require us to televise our proceedings."

But he also argued that Americans are generally not that interested in Supreme Court proceedings.

"I was for it when I first joined the court, and switched and remained on that side," Scalia explained. "If the American people sat down and watched out proceedings, gavel to gavel, they would never again ask, as I'm sometimes asked, 'Judge Scalia, why do you have to be a lawyer to be on the Supreme Court? The Constitution doesn't say—' 

"No, the Constitution does not say so. But if you know what our real business is, if you know that we're not usually contemplating our navel, should there be a right to this or that? ... If the American people saw all of that, they would be educated. But they wouldn't see all that."

The court currently releases the full audio from hearings, typically at the end of the week of the hearing although during arguments on the healthcare reform legislation, daily audio was released. Scalia dismissed its impact.

"The audio is not of interest to the 15-second take-out people, the 30-second take-out people ... precisely because it doesn't have that kind of impact [of live clips]," he said. 

Likewise, he indicated that newspaper coverage has less interest to the average American.

"People read that and they say, 'Well, it's an article in a newspaper, and the guy may be lying, or he may be misinformed,'" he said. "But somehow when you see it live, an excerpt pulled out of an entire — when you see it live, it has a much greater impact."

The full interview will air Sunday night on C-SPAN’s “Q&A” program.