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State’s chief justice favors cameras in the courtroom

Post by Cheryl Tucker on July 1, 2009 at 5:39 am with No Comments »
July 1, 2009 5:39 am

How valuable would it be to watch the arguments in such landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases as Marbury vs. Madison, Brown vs. Board of Education, Bush vs. Gore? Technology wasn’t possible for that to happen with the first case, but it was with the other two.

And what about big cases happening in the present? Will future generations look back and wonder why they were denied the chance to watch Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg interrogate hapless attorneys?

Providing a window into history is one reason Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander wholeheartedly supports televising high court proceedings. I talked with him Tuesday for today’s editorial about cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alexander speaks from experience: TVW has been airing arguments in his court since 1995. He likes it – and thinks it would be a great idea for the U.S. Supreme Court. Televising can help the public learn about government and democratic institutions, he said, and demystify the court process.

“It’s been a very pleasant relationship (with TVW), and there’s been no disruption in proceedings,” he said by phone from Olympia.

A major argument against cameras is that some justices and attorneys might ham it up. Alexander doesn’t think that’s happened. “I don’t sense justices’ or attorneys’ conduct change.”

When TVW first began televising Washington Supreme Court proceedings, Alexander figured nobody would watch. He’s been pleasantly surprised. Hardly a day goes by, he says, without someone mentioning having seen him on TVW.

So how would the U.S. Supreme Court justices do on TV?

“They’d be terrific,” Alexander said. “They’re very smart people. They ask good questions.”

His advice: They should go for it. “I can’t think of an argument against it.”

Editorial outtakes
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