The Impact of Secret Camera in the Courtroom on Actual Cameras in the Courtroom

February 27th, 2014

By now you’ve heard the news. A protestor managed to smuggle a camera into the Supreme Court chamber on at least two occasions, October 8, 2013 (for McCutcheon) and on Wednesday, February 26, 2014. Julie Silverbrook and I figured this out by pouring over the grainy footage like it was the Zapruder film. Victoria Kwan¬†put us to shame, matching the transcripts, line-by-line.

So what do we make of this event? Well, at first blush, I think this will give the Justices even more pause about allowing cameras into the Court. Think of all the times that Code Pink has disrupted Senate or House hearings. The fact that C-SPAN cameras are present no doubt exacerbate the incentives to make a ruckus. If cameras were present in the Court, there would be more incentives for protestors to act up. Though, Adam Liptak noted that “There was no reaction from the justices.”

Also, the fact that this grainy footage made it onto cable news, and even local news channels, cannot reassure the Justices who are skittish about being skewered in the media.

Now, I am not asserting that these are valid, or legitimate reasons why the Justices should refuse cameras. Rather, I suspect that this incident may harden their hearts.

This will be a topic of conversation at the next conference.