The United States Supreme Court is hearing arguments this week about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, perhaps the most far-reaching piece of legislation in decades. You’ll be able to read about the oral arguments, and you’ll be able to hear the audio. But what you won’t get is the chance to see the justices or the attorneys make their arguments.
It’s time for the Court to televise at least some of its proceedings, particularly those cases that have wide-spread impact on ordinary citizens.
Most arguments before the Court deal with highly technical points of law, and most people aren’t even aware how the court has ruled. But the challenge to the health care law has the potential for affecting more people, in more ways, than any decision in recent memory. For this reason alone the public should be able to see what is going on.
To be sure, some people are afraid that televising the court will lead to a tabloid-like circus spectacle. But one camera and one microphone used by a limited number of broadcast outlets would be a great lesson in civics. Any grandstanding lawyers could be easily reprimanded by the chief justice.
Besides, comparing what happens in the Supreme Court with what happens at a trial is totally erroneous. The procedures are different, the methods of making arguments are different and the focus of the inquiry is different. There are no witnesses to cross-examine or discredit, no evidence is introduced and no appeals to the emotions of jurors.
In fact, it could be argued that televising the proceedings will actually enhance the Court. After all, we are currently getting only second-hand information about the Court’s activities. And while reporters may try to be fair and objective, they can’t help but make mistakes and introduce their own biases into their reports. Televising the proceedings would work around those problems.
It’s time for the Supreme Court to enter the 21st Century. And arguments about the health care law is the perfect time and place to do so.