Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Scalia's weak argument against cameras in the courtroom

The excellent Blog of Legal Times has a funny post about a Florida student who dared challenge Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at a public event about his opposition to cameras in the Court chamber:
So what did Sarah Jeck ask that caused the volatile justice to erupt? According to her own notes and this account in today's Sun-Sentinel, Jeck asked whether the rationale for Scalia's well-known opposition to cameras in the Supreme Court was "vitiated" by the facts that the Court allows public visitors to view arguments and releases full argument transcripts to the public, and that justices go out on book tours.
According to the BLT, Scalia first responded, "That's a nasty, impolite question," and refused to answer. But he later relented, sort of:
After Scalia made his comment to Jeck, he took several written questions and then circled back to Jeck's query, according to this story in the Palm Beach Post. Scalia said he originally supported the idea of camera access in the courts, but came to oppose it because the inevitable "30-second takeouts" would not give a true picture of what is going on. "Why should I be a party to the miseducation of the American people?"
Scalia is a very smart man, but I find this particular anti-camera argument to be exceedingly weak, whether made by a Supreme Court justice or recording industry attorneys. If it's so dangerous to allow "30-second takeouts" to be shown, why allow newspaper reporters in the courtroom? After all, they don't reprint entire oral arguments verbatim; rather, they pick and choose snippets for their articles that we call "quotations" -- which are the print version of "takeouts." Many of them can even be read aloud in under 30 seconds.

No doubt quotations or "takeouts" can "miseducate." But, as one of Scalia's predecessors once observed: "If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence." Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 377 (1927) (Brandeis, J., concurring).

1 comment:

  1. Cut Scalia some slack, man--he just lost his free rides on Air Force 2.


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