Imagine if you spent your whole career trying to get into the big game, then magically your day comes–you will be playing in the Super Bowl! It would be a dream come true. But imagine if there were no cameras to record the moment and all that friends and family saw of your big day were a few sketches of you catching a pass and a written transcript describing the play-by-play. That would not be worthy of the event. The ratings would be low and people would not value the big game. Unfortunately, that is how the U. S. Supreme Court treats oral arguments between parties whose cases are heard in the Supreme Court—the biggest stage in law. It refuses to broadcast them to the public. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is keeping oral argument, one of the most important aspects of our legal system, out of the public eye. This is a terrible mistake.
On February 1, 2012, the New York Times ran an editorial advocating that cameras be permitted to broadcast U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments. The Times suggested that broadcasting oral argument would kindle interest in our judicial system. It would also enhance the reputation of the legal system by exposing more people to the process. This would be a reality show addressing many of the most important topics of the day. To debate such topics on the biggest of all stages, the most prominent court in human history, is for a lawyer akin to playing in the Super Bowl.
The Times observed that recently the Supreme Court of Britain started to broadcast arguments in its court. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has steadfastly refused such public viewing of its deliberations. To address the Supreme Court’s failure to embrace this change, Sen. Richard Durbin has sponsored the Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2011. This Act would force the Supreme Court to televise its hearings. Senator Durbin argues the Act would create greater transparency, accountability, and understanding of our judicial system. It would also be very interesting.
The selfish benefit to lawyers, however, would be that they would get to watch replays of their own private Super Bowl of lawyers. They could bring their grandchildren around the fire, turn on the big screen, and say, “kids, see where Gramps argued about pendent jurisdiction back in 2012—those were the days.”
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