Supreme Court Watch: Justices Note Continued Reservations Over Cameras In the Supreme Court

During House Appropriations Subcommittee hearings on the Supreme Court Budget, questions about cameras in the Supreme Court were raised; appearing for the Court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Justice Stephen G. Breyer noted continued reluctance to allow cameras but suggested some willingness to consider further examination of the possible impact

Yesterday Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Justice Stephen G. Breyer appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government concerning the Supreme Court budget. See Statement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government (March 14, 2013). The Justices noted that in the face of sequestration, the Court was sensitive “to ask for no more funding than we in fact do need.” This would include reducing operation spending of $74.8 million by three percent. But an additional $11 million was needed for buildings and grounds. The Justices warned about the impact on the Court's operations by sustained budget reductions, including from the sequestration.

During questions from members of the subcommittee, Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) asked about televising Supreme Court proceedings. Justice Kennedy noted: “We are a teaching institution, and we teach by not having the television there. We are judged by what we write, the reasons that we give.” He suggested a “reluctance to introduce a dynamic where I would have an instinct that one of my colleagues on the bench is asking a question just because a camera is there. I don't want that insidious dynamic between me and my colleagues.”

Justice Breyer observed that the Court was “a very conservative institution.” While he saw some merit and and some had suggested to him that cameras could have an influence on the proceedings. He suggested more studies should be held to consider the impact before proceeding. See generally Justices: Cameras would censor Supreme Court, CBS News (March 14, 2013) (reporting on committee hearing).

Recently, it was reported that the two newest Justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, also indicated reluctance to allow televised Supreme Court proceedings. See Adam Liptak, "Bucking a Trend, Supreme Court Justices Reject Video Coverage," New York Times (Feb. 18, 2013).

We have previously noted the issue of Cameras in the Supreme Court. See generally Cameras In The Courtroom: Increasing Requests for Televising Supreme Court Proceedings; Congress Watch: Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Measure To Televise Supreme Court Proceedings (S. 1945).

For more on the subject of Cameras in the federal courts, see the Cameras And Electronic Devices In The Federal Courtroom Resource Page. This Resource provides access to a library of documents including judicial conference policies, judicial guidelines, legislation and hearings, cases and other articles of interest.


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