Commentary

Supreme Court TV? Big Time, Less-Than-Pretty Arguments For Your Viewing Pleasure

When TV cameras are suddenly on, people play to the lens. And then maybe after a long while, they don’t. All that “playing” is hard work.

Television camera coverage has made appearances in city and state courtrooms for years -- with varying degrees of effect. Now Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wants to make another effort to get cameras into the Supreme Court.

Grassley and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have reintroduced legislation to allow cameras in all open sessions, unless a majority of justices voted that the coverage could violate the due process rights of a party involved in a particular case.

Grassley believes TV cameras will offer up better understanding of what goes on, what’s important -- and what is garbage. Would cameras have help U.S. citizens explain why the Supremes gave ObamaCare the seal of approval to go ahead? Maybe. What’s the downside?

Television coverage can certainly skew the drama inside a court room. But let’s face it. Most of the stuff can be boring. Checked out C-Span recently? Procedural stuff can move slowly.

Unlike other more TV content -- scripted, “reality” or otherwise -- real-life court TV comes without makeup, editing, or another take. But then again life can be like that.

Critics also worry edited video pieces for later non-live Supreme Court viewing may be taken out of context.

So what? In today’s media world of 140 characters on Twitter, much has be taken out of context. New digital media consumption is always about the headline, the tease for other informational gathering.

What would happen if we actually witnessed big justices at work? Is it the fear they can might seemingly ask complex and head-scratching questions? That they may sound weird, or heaven forbid, stumble over something.

Lawyers, participants and judges can get nervous in a courtroom. If we really want to take out the drama perhaps we should just offer evidence and responses to questions -- by text and links.

Charles Lane wrote in The Washington Post two years ago that TVs at the Supreme Court would represent “the mindless full disclosure over genuine constitutional concerns — and begin the deterioration of one of the few public proceedings in Washington that can still be described as solemn.”

Solemn? Yes, that’s what we need more for all part of our government -- stately, ceremonial, humorless and grim decision-making. How about some reality, as well.

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