Kagan Gives Shout-Out For Cameras In High Court

Supreme Court nominee Solicitor General Elena Kagan reaffirmed her support for televising oral arguments.
During her confirmation hearing, she said that she thought it would be "a great thing for the institution and a great thing for the American people."

 She said she understands other Justices have differing opinions on cameras in the court, and that some think it would change the way arguments are made. She said she was open to being persuaded that she was wrong.

 But she said the issues are ones the American people should be interested in. She said she has watched almost all the arguments, and argues herself before the court once a month or so. "When you see what happens there, it is an inspiring sight," she said.

In follow-up questioning on the issue, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), a big backer of cameras in federal

courts, asked wether a 1980 Supreme Court decision in Richmond Newspapers vs. Virginia, which upheld a newspaper's right to cover a trial, provides legal precedent for cameras in the court as a way to give the public access to public trials.

She said she had not thought about it before, but that the principle in the case--the public's ability to know how their government institutions work--,was critical to both issues. She also added that she thought cameras would be a good thing for the court, as well as the public. "Televising would be a good idea from all perspectives."

Specter said he had talked with other members of the court, and that a lot of the justices had either been favorably disposed to it or at least acknowledged its inevitability. Kagan joked that putting cameras in the court would mean she would have to get her hair done more often. Specter approved, saying that the court could use the moderating influence of a sense of humor.

 On the issue of political speech, Kagan agreed that it was "at the core of the First Amendment."

 Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) spent much of his time dealing with the Citizens United case, in which the Supreme Court last fall lifted the ban on direct election ad funding by corporations and unions as a violation of free speech. Kagan argued and lost that case. She said it was now settled law, and that her argument against lifting the ban was as an advocate for the government in her capacity as solicitor general and was distinct from how she might or might not rule as a judge.

Click here to watch video of Kagan responding to a question about TV cameras in the Supreme Court.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.