Cameras in the Courtroom Essay

Should Supreme Court proceedings be televised? No - Ethics & Public Policy Center

When the public follows a trial through the lens of the media, which may pick a side before the trial is done, it can skew their interpretation of the proceedings. A prime example is the case of Casey Anthony in Florida; Nancy Grace and her viewers decided the defendant was guilty long before the trial came to a close, and they were confused and outraged when the jury didn't agree. But live feeds of proceedings don't guarantee that the public won't still turn to the media for a boiled-down version of courtroom coverage.

She urges federal judges to move cautiously into an age that might too closely resemble reality TV:. So no, you won't see Tsarnaev stand trial on your local television station.


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For now, the jury is still out on cameras in federal courtrooms. Mass media is just the latest challenge for courts in an ongoing quest for impartial jurors—a goal that might be nearly impossible to achieve. Police departments across the country are struggling to figure out how to deal with this new type of evidence.

Cameras In The Courtroom Essay

A round-up of news and research on headline-grabbing court cases. It runs by its own rules and its proceedings are kept secret, but we know the fundamentals of how the court was conceived and how it functions. Two juveniles have been charged for starting the wildfire that killed 14 people in Tennessee earlier this month. Should they be tried as adults?

Supreme Court opinions—by far the most important material for studying the court—are posted online as soon as they are announced. And instead of relying on generalist Supreme Court reporters, members of the public can consult a broad range of expert analysis and commentary on the Internet.

Oral arguments at the court attract a degree of attention that dwarfs their actual importance. But here too, anyone eager to read the tea leaves of oral argument now has ample opportunity to do so.

What are the implications of television cameras in the courtroom?

The court makes argument transcripts available online on the very day of argument—typically within 90 minutes—and posts audio recordings of arguments at the end of each week. It is difficult to see how televising oral arguments would add much to the abundant stock of available information.


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  • By contrast, the potential downside of televising Supreme Court proceedings is substantial. The culture of the court is, for good reason, predominantly textual.

    Because of the emotional power of images, cameras, far more than microphones, transform the behavior of those who know they are being recorded. In some contexts, that transformation will be for the better. In particular, cameras at oral argument and at sessions in which rulings are announced would encourage and reward political grandstanding by the justices as well as by counsel and protesters in the courtroom.

    Cameras in the Courtroom

    The court would become more politicized, and the resulting resentment and distrust among the justices would disserve the ideal of reasoned deliberation—an ideal, to be sure, that is often not realized but that is at least still professed and pursued. George Weigel. Peter Wehner. Lance Morrow.

    The U.S. Experience