Sunday, March 18, 2012

US Supreme Court Misses A Golden Opportunity For Transparency And Engaging The Public

From The New York Times, "Health Law Hearings: Justices Plan Daily Tapes" by Adam Liptak:
The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would release same-day audio recordings of the arguments over the constitutionality of the health care overhaul law. The arguments will be heard over three days starting on March 26.

The court’s recent practice has been to release audio recordings of arguments at the end of the week. It plans to alter that practice for the health care case, the court said in a statement, "because of the extraordinary public interest" in the arguments.
The US Supreme Court is the least transparent of the three pillars of our checks and balances democracy, the executive, the legislative and the courts. Supreme Court justices are appointed for life and usually are not well known publicly. Court proceedings are not televised, even on a delay.

We grow up watching TV, movies, video games and a computer monitor. We post videos on YouTube and Facebook. We video teleconference work meetings and we video Skype with our friends and family. The golden age of radio, great orators and audio alone died long ago. The visual holds our interest and attention.

We are a visual people who recognize that facial expressions, body language and mannerisms convey information in addition to our spoken words. Congress can televise its sessions and committee meetings. The President and his staff are often in front of the TV camera discussing important issues. The public with access to the courtroom is allowed into the US Supreme Court to watch the proceedings, but not those more distant or less politically connected to get seats for important legal arguments.

The visual of the US Supreme Court hearings, the facial expressions of the nine Justices, and the movements and body language of the arguing attorneys are as much a part of the hearings as the audio.

A public that can see the US Supreme Court in action is a public that is much more engaged in the legal process.

The Emperors needs to go out in public to show that they are wearing clothes. The Wizards needs to lower the curtain to show that they have nothing to hide.

The US Supreme Court needs to televise all its in court proceedings to the public to show the world the workings of one of the important pillars of our society. The health law arguments would have been a great way to start televising court proceedings.

The public will watch a video of US Supreme Court proceedings. The public will ignore the audio of the same events.

The justices lost a chance to expand public engagement in the legal process and the rule of law. Shame on the nine justices for their elitism and their belief that live video of their and counsels' actions should be above the watchful eyes of the general public.

Also, see my post, "Another Reason To Televise US Supreme Court Health Care Legal Arguments."

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