Television cameras were rolling and mics were hot when Sonia Sotomayor was sworn in to sit on the Supreme Court last weekend. It was the first time that electronic media has recorded a SCOTUS swearing-in event, opening hope for similar privileges in actual court proceedings.
RTNDA noted promising comments made before the Senate when Sotomayor was still but a nominee. “I have had positive experiences with cameras when I have been asked to join experiments using cameras in the courtroom,” she told Herb Kohl (D-WI) when asked about the possibility of opening the Supreme Court to electronic media devices.
While she stopped short of endorsing the idea, coming to the question with an open mind is a vast improvement over her predecessor David Souter, who said he would cameras would make it into the court over his dead body.
“I’m encouraged that Justice Sotomayor used the word ‘positive’ to describe her experiences with cameras in the courtroom,” said RTNDA Chairman Stacey Woelfel. “Every state has some provision for cameras to provide appellate court coverage. The prospect that our viewers may soon be able to get that same coverage of the Supreme Court is very exciting indeed. Allowing cameras there would create an important avenue for journalists to help citizens better understand the United States legal system and the major issues presented in its highest court.”
Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath twice. The first time was private, with family members only present, but the second time was for public consumption and open to the media.
RBR/TVBR observation: It is beyond ridiculous that the tools of modern journalism are banned from an institution charged with conducting the people’s business, on the people’s dime. If radio and television are exiled from the courtroom, so too should newspapers and their sketch artists. From now on, either broadcasters get to plug in and newspapers get to bring their cameras, or – if the court insists on being anachronistic — only town criers will be allowed to report on Supreme decisions.