Should the Supreme Court be Televised?

Kevin Drum wrote a post yesterday on the Supreme Court that I don’t totally agree with. He takes offense to Justice Antonin Scalia’s “arrogance” when he says”:

I’m against it because I do not believe […] that the purpose of televising our hearings would be to educate the American people. That’s not what it would end up doing. If I really thought it would educate the American people, I would be all for it. If the American people sat down and watched our proceedings gavel to gavel […] they would be educated. But they wouldn’t see all of that.

Your outfit would carry it all, to be sure, but what most of the American people would see would be 30-second, 15-second takeouts from our argument, and those takeouts would not be characteristic of what we do. They would be uncharacteristic.

But now what we see is an article in a newspaper that’s out of context with what you say is — (Bolding Drum’s)

That’s fine, but people read that and they say, well it’s an article in the newspaper, and the guy may be lying, or he may be misinformed. But somehow when you see it live, an excerpt pulled out of an entire — when you see it live, it has a much greater impact. No, I am sure it will miseducate the American people, not educate.

Drum has issue with Scalia’s disregard for the American public’s capacity to learn from the Supreme Court being televised. He admits that of course the media will take the most controversial snippets and the American public will just see small parts of it, but concludes:

So what? Nobody thinks that’s a good reason to limit access to any other branch of government. Politics is a messy game. It’s often unfair. That’s life, and in a democracy the public should get to see it unfold regardless of whether you think they’re smart enough to appreciate it.

I’m not sure I agree with this. The Supreme Court has to be as far above politics as we can make it. Over the past few decades, it has become more and more partisan, which is not good for the American people. We need justices who are  free to judge cases purely on the law, not play politics. At the Supreme Court level, justices cannot escape politics but putting them on TV would just exacerbate the problem.

It seems the same as the Federal Reserve Board meetings. These institutions make decisions that are extremely important to the country and we must protect them from politics in any way we can. One of those ways is keeping them off TV.


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