Camera shy

The usually sensible Antonin Scalia on Wednesday continued his crusade against cameras at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Scalia, appointed to the high court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, told a group of Virginia high school students this week that he opposes cameras in the courtroom because TV networks could then show snippets of a judicial proceeding out of context.

“There would be 100,000 who would watch a 15-second take-out from the C-SPAN feed,” he said. “And I guarantee you that the 15-second take-out would not be characteristic of what we do. It would be man bites dog, so why should I participate in the miseducation of the American people?”

He continued: “To make entertainment out of real people’s legal troubles is quite sick.”

Of course, the same argument could be made for keeping cameras and the press out of virtually any government proceeding. Is that really a desirable end in a democratic republic?

In fact, allowing more members of the public to view actual court proceedings — at the local, state or national level — would likely do more to educate American citizens about their judicial system than any textbook can.

Justice Scalia is not alone on the high court when it comes to his position on televised hearings. But as information technology continues to explode, defenders of a camera-shy U.S. Supreme Court are fighting a battle they’ll eventually lose.


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