Supreme Court First: Scalia Tribute Webcast

The Supreme Court let video inside its hallowed halls Friday but only for a little over an hour and only into the Great Hall—rather than the courtroom—for a memorial to the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

An announcement was made at the outset reminding everyone that no cameras would be allowed in the courtroom—the second part of the tribute was held in the courtroom that Scalia dominated with probing arguments—appropriate since Scalia was a strong opponent of cameras in the Supreme Court.

It was fitting that C-SPAN was streaming it given that the cable-operator backed public service network has been a leading voice for cameras in the courts.

But it was the first time an event has been live streamed from inside the court building, which was hailed as a pleasant surprise and, hopefully, a harbinger of things to come, by Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth.

“The webcast announcement was a shock, though a much appreciated one,” said Roth. “I hope it is also a sign that the voices of reason and modernity are gaining acceptance inside the building," said Roth. 

Fix the Court points out that while many lower courts allow webcasting technology to boost the transparency of their proceedings, it was the first time the Supreme Court employed online video.

At the event, according to a transcript, Attorney General Loretta Lynch hailed Scalia for his "razor-sharp brilliance and unmatched eloquence" that "transformed the way that jurists and lawyers approach the law," as well as the "inspired wordsmithing" that created such gems as the assertion that Congress does not “hide elephants in mouseholes” or that “the rule of law” requires “a law of rules.”  

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.