Bar Association: Supreme Court Should Embrace Cameras in Courtroom

A resolution passed by the American Bar Association puts forth an idea that the Supreme Court has discounted in the past: putting cameras in the courtroom to record the justices' oral arguments.

Cameras have become common in many courtrooms around the country, but there’s one courtroom that’s traditionally avoided them: the hallowed halls of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The American Bar Association (ABA) hopes to change that. On Monday, at the ABA’s Midyear Meeting, the association’s House of Delegates voted on a measure recommending that the court allow cameras to record the oral arguments made by the court’s justices.

It’s hard to sit down a kid with a 1,000-page transcript and tell him to read it and get excited about what he’s reading.

The reason the initiative was put forth? According to the Young Lawyers Division of the ABA, it’s all about making the Supreme Court a more accessible part of democracy to the public as a whole. Lawyer Andrew Schpak, a delegate for the division, suggested that video of the justices doing their work could get people interested in the law.

“It’s hard to sit down a kid with a 1,000-page transcript and tell him to read it and get excited about what he’s reading,” Schpak said, according to the ABA Journal.

Less convinced, however, are the Supreme Court justices themselves. The Wall Street Journal reported that there’s little support from the justices; Justice Elena Kagan, speaking in opposition, pointed out the weaknesses of C-SPAN on this front.

“When cameras come into a place, the nature of conversation often changes,” Kagan said during a speech at the University of Chicago last year. “Honestly, I don’t think Congress is a great advertisement for this,” she said.

Ultimately, the justices would decide whether cameras show up in the courtroom, the Journal reports. While an amendment to the Constitution could be passed to force the issue, an act of Congress would face judicial review—meaning that, as with everything else not set in stone by the Constitution, the final ruling is in SCOTUS’ hands.

Justice Elena Kagan, a critic of cameras in the Supreme Court. (Fortune Live Media/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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