Monday, December 12, 2011

What’s so hard about televising oral arguments?

The question whether the cameras should be allowed in the Supreme Court is heating up. Most recently, CSPAN asked the justices to allow it to televise the oral argument over the health care law. It is unlikely that the justices will grant the request. In a recent sidebar, Adam Liptak argues that these refusals are based on “paternalism and self-interest.” Tony Mauro similarly argues that the Court's refusal to allow cameras in its courtroom "is born of fear of change, nostalgia, a self-interested desire for anonymity, but most of all exceptionalism: the Court's view of itself as a unique institution that can and should resist the demands of the information age."

Nancy Marder disagrees and argues instead that the justices have struck the right balance between the openness that the justices have chosen for themselves and their work and the obscurity in which their work must take place.

Liptak and Mauro take this one, and it’s not even close.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Republicans turn to their favorite punching bag once again: the courts

It appears, if the editorial page of the New York Times is to be believed, that Newt Gingrich is at it again. I figured as much. His apparent conversion to moderate politics – I have in mind here his recent position on illegal immigration – was too good to be true. In his defense, running for the Republican nomination is not easy. Lots of crazies out there. Ask Romney. 

Here is the latest. According to Gingrich, Congress and the President must begin to push back on the Court, Cooper v. Aaron and judicial supremacy be damned. Among the tools at the politico’s disposal are the power to strip jurisdiction; impeachment; and the right to abolish specific judicial seats. The affected institutions could also ignore rulings they don’t like. 

The Times’ editors find this approach distasteful. As a general matter, they argue that Gingrich’s attack on the courts takes “the normal attack on the justice system to a new low.” They equate his criticism to “McCarthyist tactics” designed to “smear judges.” Gingrich’s view that the political branches must stand up to the court is described as “twisted.” They close with the following: “His ideas would replace the rule of law with a reign of ideology. If he had his way, a Supreme Court that ordered an end to racist segregation policies would become a puppet of the political branches.” 

I have three reactions, and a better response to Mr. Gingrich.