Televising court proceedings may not be all it’s cracked up to be

The press generally applauded this month when the Senate Judiciary
Committee voted to require the U. S. Supreme Court to televise
proceedings. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., was one of the big
proponents.

As a card-carrying member of the press, I have reservations.

Maybe it’s just nostalgia. I covered the court for the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch in the 1980s and loved to watch the artists set up for
big arguments, arranging their pencils and positioning their canvas.

I also fear that justices and lawyers will become show boats. Justice
Scalia already is, but things could get worse.

Reporters should also beware what they wish for. Oral arguments seldom
produce sound bites.

Lastly, Congress probably doesn’t have the power to order the court to
televise arguments. The separation of powers is essential to the
architecture of the Constitution. Congress no more has power to force
the court to televise its proceedings than the Court has the power to
order Congress to change its rules.