From the Spring 2006 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 21.
“Television coverage of the Supreme Court would not simply let the public see what goes on before that important institution, but would also in some ways change what now goes on.”
— Justice Samuel Alito, noting that cameras could affect how justices ask questions during arguments, in an April 1996 speech to the Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey during his tenure as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia (3rd Cir.). During his confirmation hearings in January, Alito said he would “keep an open mind” on the issue.
“We wear black robes as a signal that justice is impersonal.”
— Justice Stephen G. Breyer at an August 2000 American Bar Association meeting in London, where he said decision making would be too personalized in front of cameras, as reported by the New Jersey Law Journal. At a March 2006 event at the Clinton library, Breyer said that it is “almost inevitable” that cameras will soon come to the Court.
“Right now the view is that our proceedings should not be televised.”
— Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, citing potential for lawyer theatrics and loss of anonymity in an interview with the Ottawa Sun after an October 2000 speech for the 125th anniversary of the Canadian Supreme Court. Ginsburg said she would not object to gavel-to-gavel coverage.
“We feel very strongly that we have intimate knowledge of the dynamics and the mood of the court, and we think that proposals mandating and directing television in our court are inconsistent with the deference and etiquette that should apply between the branches.”
— Justice Anthony M. Kennedy to an April 2006 House Appropriations subcommittee meeting on the court’s budget, as reported in The New York Times. At an American Bar Association forum in November 2005, Kennedy said that “there are a number of people who want to make us part of the national entertainment network.”
“I don’t have a set view on [cameras in the high court.] I do think it’s something that I would want to listen to the views of — if I were confirmed — my colleagues.”
— Chief Justice John Roberts during his September 2005 confirmation hearings.
“For every one person who sees it . . . gavel to gavel so that they can really understand what the court is about . . . 10,000 will see 15-second takeouts on network news which I guarantee you will be uncharacteristic of what the court does.”
— Justice Antonin Scalia in an April 2005 speech to the National Archives, as reported by NBC.
“I can tell you the day you see a camera come into our courtroom, it’s going to roll over my dead body.”
— Justice David Souter, in 1996 testimony before a congressional subcommittee meeting on the court’s budget.
Justice John Paul Stevens has made no public comments on the issue in 20 years so it is difficult to know where he stands on the issue. In 1986, he and then Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall publicly supported allowing audio coverage of arguments on the constitutionality of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings balanced-budget law. Chief Justice Warren Burger denied access.
“It runs the risk of undermining the manner in which we consider cases.”
— Justice Clarence Thomas to an April 2006 House Appropriations subcommittee meeting on the court’s budget, as reported in The New York Times. He also cited lost anonymity of justices.