According to a poll commissioned by the Coalition for Court Transparency, 74% of respondents support live television broadcasts of oral arguments and the announcement of decisions. By a strangely smaller majority of 72%, they said there should at least be live audio broadcasts.
Actually, the court currently allows almost-live audio transmissions of arguments in a handful of high-profile cases. For example, a few hours after the court heard arguments on the constitutionality of Obamacare, visitors to the court’s website could hear Justice
As I argued awhile back, it's crazy for the court to allow same-day audio for politically sexy cases while making listeners wait until the end of the week to listen to the arguments in obscure tax and anti-trust cases. Talk about straining a gnat and swallowing a camel.
But evocative as an audio feed can be, it's no substitute for video. Justices worry about whether cameras would undermine the dignity of the court. But if the institution survived Bush vs. Gore, it can survive being televised. And there are plenty of, er, precedents. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom allows TV cameras to broadcast its proceedings.
Alas, the British example probably will be more persuasive to most justices than the fact that the people support televised arguments. Members of Congress may have to pay attention to polls, but life-tenured judges can rule them out of order.
The justices are particularly unlikely to be impressed by the views of respondents in this poll, 71% of whom said that lifetime appointments for Supreme Court justices should be abolished.