US Supreme Court

Will Justices' Fear of Sound Bite Preclude TV Coverage of 5-Hour Oral Argument in Health Care Case?


Despite intense public and media interest in the constitutional challenge to President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, it’s unlikely that the U.S. Supreme Court will agree to allow scheduled oral arguments of more than five hours to be televised, predicts Adam Liptak in a New York Times (reg. req.) column today.

Yet, he argues, there’s really no good reason not to make it easy for the public to see the nation’s top court at work on a blockbuster case.

Why, it would appear, don’t the justices agree? They’re worried that the media might pounce upon a catchy sentence or two and publicize it widely, potentially distort its import and meaning, according to C-SPAN’s chairman, Brian P. Lamb.

“It’s the sound bite,” Lamb told the Times. “They don’t like, in the modern age, that people can sound bite them.”

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “A Senator and C-SPAN Ask Supreme Court to Allow Cameras for Health Law Arguments”

ABAJournal.com: “Five-Plus Hours of Oral Argument on Health Care Law Isn’t That Long, Historically Speaking”

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