If ever a week presented the United States Supreme Court with a compelling case for allowing video coverage of its proceedings, it is (last week).
On (March 26), the court began hearing arguments about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as "Obamacare." One cannot overstate the magnitude of this case for the country as a whole.
In a nod to intense national interest in the case and the impact of the law on all Americans, the court (expedited) release of audio recordings and written transcripts of oral arguments ... each afternoon, but it stopped short of permitting video recording.
In our view, it's time for the court to release its archaic grip on opposition to video coverage of its proceedings. Quite frankly, other than tradition, we see no other reason for its opposition.
We give credit to longtime cameras-in the-courtroom-advocate U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, for urging the Supreme Court (in a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts in November) to allow video coverage of proceedings in the health care reform case.
In a statement released at the time he wrote the letter to Roberts, Grassley framed the arguments for video coverage well: "Cameras in federal courtrooms are at the very heart of an open and transparent government. Broadcasting the health care reform law proceedings would not only contribute to the public's understanding of America's judicial system, but provide an excellent educational opportunity on a case that has the potential to have a far-reaching impact on every American. This law is massive in size and scope. Its effect is reverberating throughout America's economy. The constitutional questions are landmark. The public has a right to hear and see the legal arguments."
As Grassley pointed out in his letter to Roberts, many options exist under which video coverage could be allowed with no disruption of court proceedings.
We join Grassley in expressing disappointment at the court's decision earlier this month against video coverage of its health care reform proceedings. The country would have benefited from such coverage in terms of improved understanding of the health care law, of the arguments in support of and opposition to the law, and of the workings of the court itself.
- Sioux City Journal, March 27