The Supreme Court rebuffed a request to broadcast live audio of Tuesday’s high-profile partisan gerrymandering case, saying the dangers of lawyers and justices playing to the audience outweighs the benefit of instant access for the public.
Jeffrey P. Minear, counselor to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., told four House members who’d requested Tuesday’s argument be live-streamed that the chief justice shares their ultimate goal of increasing public understanding of the court.
“I am sure you are, however, familiar with the Justices’ concerns surrounding the live broadcast or streaming of oral arguments, which could adversely affect the character and quality of the dialogue between the attorneys and Justices,” Mr. Minear said in a letter sent to the lawmakers Monday.
The bipartisan group of House members had wanted live audio streaming available online of Tuesday’s case, where the justices weighed whether to wade in on the thorny issue of partisan gerrymandering.
Mr. Minear said the court has tried to increase transparency by making transcripts available online the day a case is heard, posting audio recordings of oral arguments at the end of each week, and posting opinions as soon as they are delivered in the courtroom.
He also said the court will be implementing an electronic filing system next month, so the public and legal community can access documents for free online.
The letter comes as there’s increased interest in the court’s blockbuster term, which kicked off Monday.
Some federal courts do allow cameras to video their proceedings, and some courts even broadcast their own live web streams of oral arguments. But the high court has refused.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor last month said she doesn’t support having cameras inside the Supreme Court, saying she fears they would distort the justices’ behavior and hurt the court’s role in government.
“Cameras change the institution and education is not unimportant, but it’s not the answer for ensuring that there is actually a discussion going on that can be looked at by others in writing,” said Justice Sotomayor, speaking at Democracy at a Crossroads, a civics education conference.
Some members of Congress have pushed for a change, introducing legislation to broadcast court business. Those bills haven’t gained traction.
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