The U.S. Supreme Court should televise the proceedings when it hears arguments in March 2012 over President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law.
The court has not responded to requests by at least three prominent members of Congress—Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.—and to similar requests by C-SPAN and the Radio Television Digital News Association urging the high court to allow cameras in the courtroom when arguments are presented in the cases involving the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148), also known as “Obamacare.”
On Nov. 14, the Supreme Court said it will hear arguments in the cases National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, No. 11-393; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services v. Florida, No. 11-398; and Florida v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, No. 11-400, (which are all Obamacare cases that have been combined into one case) and it has reserved more than five hours on its docket for those arguments (most cases receive an hour for arguments). The court has never allowed arguments to be televised; rather it provides transcripts of every case and audio recordings of arguments for high-profile cases.
While all the letters and statements made good points, C-SPAN’s letter—signed by Brian Lamb, the company’s CEO—best sums up why the case should be televised: “We believe the public interest is best served by live television coverage of this particular oral argument. It is a case which affects every American’s life; our economy; and will certainly be an issue in the upcoming presidential campaign.”
However, the court has yet to respond.
According to a technological insider who has met the justices, there are a few reasons for the court’s reluctance to allow cameras during arguments. Despite sitting on the high court, most of the justices enjoy relative anonymity from the public. But the introduction of cameras to the court could change that making them conspicuous during outings to shopping malls, movies or sporting events. Personal privacy is important, but the justices are already public figures and being recognized goes with job.
Also, there are concerns that allowing cameras for the Obamacare arguments will open the video floodgates, making it difficult for the court to prevent cameras from being present at other cases before it.
Allowing cameras into the courtroom—or keeping them out—should only be based on what is best for the American public, and not on what is convenient for the justices.