Doug Kendall Echoes My Recommendation To SCOTUS in NYT: Live-Stream Audio of Proceedings

April 21st, 2013

Two weeks ago, I offered a compromise position to the Court, which steadfastly refuses to allow cameras into the Court–allow microphones, and live-stream the audio.

As a first step, the Court can live-stream the big arguments. The Court is already releasing the arguments a few hours-delayed. Why not live-stream them? The audio is never edited. From what I can tell, the Court just dumps the audio onto the web. I can’t think of any good policy reasons why it is okay to release the audio two hours later, but not live-stream them. This would obviate the need for us to sit in absolute suspense, waiting for reports to trickle out of the Court. In today’s real-time world, those few hours from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. are a lifetime.

I suppose there are some technical difficulties, but I have no doubt that Congress would fall over itself to fund this. Hell, I would contribute to such a cause. It could be managed within the Court (no need to allow CSPAN in). And maybe a tape delay could be added, just in case there are any fleeting expletives (like buttocks?).

If the Court is not comfortable broadcasting oral arguments, they should at least consider live-stream the hand-downs of opinions (as PolicyJunkie suggested). There is zero risk for questions from the Justices to be taken out of context. Here, the Justices are reading prepared statements about the cases, and the opinions are available immediately on the web site. Can you imagine how amazing it would have been if the NFIB hand-down was live-streamed.

If this strategy works out, perhaps the Court could move on to releasing all oral arguments through the live stream. And maybe if this works, maybe, cameras may be permitted for opinion hand-downs!

This is a compromise for now. I have no powers beyond the blog, but perhaps if this idea percolates in the blogosphere, it may make some impact. Or not.

In a letter to the editor at the Times, Doug Kendall offers the same recommendation:

There has been a great deal of debate lately over whether the Supreme Court should allow cameras to broadcast its hearings. It should. But as Mr. Liptak’s column indicates, there’s an intermediate step the court could take right now to increase its overall transparency: It could grant the American public access to a live audio stream of all its public proceedings.

The court is doing this for a small number of privileged lawyers, including me, who are members of the Supreme Court bar. There’s no technical (or logical) reason the court shouldn’t grant everyone else the same level of access.

I couldn’t agree more!