As everyone knows, these are historic days for the Supreme Court. Sonia Sotomayor has become the first Latino justice on the Court and only its third woman, a fact noted by both Sotomayor and President Barack Obama during the new justice's visit to the White House today.
But are there other changes coming to the Court? Some observers think that the circumstances of Sotomayor's swearing-in ceremony indicate an important shift in attitudes at One First Street. Supreme Court oaths have received television coverage since Clarence
Thomas was sworn in, but they've all taken place at the White House.
Sotomayor's swearing-in took place in the East Conference Room of the
Supreme Court, and it was the first time that an oath at the Supreme
Court was captured by TV cameras.
Now, if you happened to be
watching the Sotomayor confirmation hearings (and if you managed to
fight off their soporific effects), you might remember Senator Arlen
Specter (D-PA) asking Sotomayor about cameras at the Supreme Court.
Specter wants the Court to provide the public greater access to its
inner workings by letting TV crews in to televise oral arguments.
Sotomayor participated in a pilot program to allow cameras in the
courtroom while on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, but she declined
to state an actual position on cameras at the Supreme Court - just like
she did with pretty much ever other question.
Some commentators are wondering
after the swearing-in ceremony if Sotomayor's arrival will break
through the traditional aversion Supreme Court Justices have had
towards TV cameras. After all, Justice David Souter, whom Sotomayor is
replacing, was the most vociferous opponent of TV cameras at the
Supreme Court. Maybe with his departure and Sotomayor's positive
experience during the pilot program will sway the other justices
towards accepting cameras?
Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor doesn't think that it's such a great idea, though. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, SDOC states that
there is an almost instantaneous recording of the arguments, and you
can get the opinions immediately, so the court has gone a long way to
provide immediate [information]. And still, even if they could [televise] the
arguments, they are technical and complicated, and without simplifying
and making it hands-on for the students it's not going to help their
knowledge that much. So that doesn't solve the problem of educating
young people in my opinion.
Once change that SDOC might want to see is a rotating venue for the Court. O'Connor has been sitting on a lot of Circuit Courts these days, and she likes the fact that many Courts of Appeals change locations every now and again.
Televised Court proceedings and a shifting venue? I see a reality show in the making: "Supreme Court Road Rules."