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Links of the Day:

– In a hugely disappointing decision, the Supreme Court will not permit cameras in court for arguments on the health care law. It would have been the first time the court allowed cameras to televise proceedings.

The court will post same-day audio recordings of the hearings on its website.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press had fought for cameras in the high court:

“While we are pleased the court will allow the public to hear perhaps the most important oral arguments of the decade, it is disappointing it will not take advantage of communications technology that would allow the public to see and hear this important case, said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish.

“The millions of Americans affected by the proposed federal health care legislation should be able to observe and monitor the debate over this significant issue in real-time, as it is made before the highest court in the country,” she said. “Hopefully, the overwhelming public interest in these cases will lead the Court to recognize that greater transparency in its proceedings serves the public good and will allow public access to visual recordings of its arguments in the future.”

C-SPAN will air the audio, but is also disappointed in the court’s decision, which didn’t come as a surprise. The justices have long been skeptical, reports ABC News:

If people actually watched the entire argument, (Justice Antonin) Scalia said, cameras would provide a learning experience for the American public.

But, he said, “For every 10 people who sat through our proceedings, gavel to gavel, there would be 10,000 who would see nothing but a 30-second take-out from one of the proceedings.”

Scalia said television wouldn’t add much.

“We just sit there like nine sticks on chairs,” he said. “I mean, there is not a whole lot of visual motion. It’s mostly intellectual motion.”

How condescending! Scalia is essentially saying, “If the American people only watch soundbites, they will not understand what’s happening or find any value.” Give me a break.

Cameras in court provide a vital connection between the public and government. They increase citizen awareness and participation. It is totally impractical to expect people to leave their jobs or children to sit in court all day to watch proceedings of interest. Many courtrooms have restricted seating. Cameras bring the proceedings to the people and open up government in important ways.

New York State is also behind the times. Cameras are allowed only with the judge’s permission. Monroe County judges typically make all parties agree before allowing cameras. For example, murderer Mark Christie didn’t want cameras in court for his recent arraignment and subsequent plea to Viola Manville’s slaying. He claimed inmates would figure out his identity. Never mind he’s a notorious killer and his mug shot is everywhere. But since Christie didn’t want cameras, there were no cameras.

When judges do allow cameras in court, it’s proven time and time again the technology has no impact on the proceedings beyond letting the public inside.

– The New York Times blasted Governor Andrew Cuomo’s backroom deals on redistricting, saying he gave into “Albany’s secretive and undemocratic ways of doing business.”

“People lying on couches asleep – that’s not the way to govern.”

– A Pittsford woman was baking a cake when she was confronted by an intruder.

4 Responses to Cameras Belong in Court

  1. Even if what Scalia says is true, how is that an argument against letting cameras in? This is weak, really weak. Even if just ten people, and I suspect it would be more, pay attention to the entire proceedings, that is more than enough to let cameras in.

  2. March 17, 2012 at 11:23 am Catherine responds:

    You’re surprised that Antonin Scalia is condescending?

  3. March 17, 2012 at 1:10 pm chuckatpdo responds:

    I must challenge your indignation. Random 30-second bits from any proceeding cannot possibly provide the context to allow understanding.

    The “soundbites” that we are all familiar with are not random, but selected by someone from a larger mass of content. Even in these instances, context may be missing, lost, or manipulated-which effects understanding.

  4. March 17, 2012 at 6:28 pm Gary Craig responds:

    Thanks Rachel for highlighting this issue. I share your disappointment. Yes, sometimes issues do get trimmed into soundbites, but that happens with or without cameras. Newscasts and newspapers determine which moments to highlight in commentary. Allowing cameras gives those who want to digest the arguments in their whole more opportunity. Far more would watch than will tune into an audio. NY’s cameras in court experiment was, by the accounts of most involved firsthand, an unquestioned success.

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