U.S. Supreme Court

Sotomayor appears to change her mind on cameras in the court

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Photo of Sonia Sotomayor by collection of the
Supreme Court of the United States, Steve
Petteway, via Wikimedia Commons.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor endorsed cameras in the Supreme Court when questioned at her confirmation hearings in 2009.

Sotomayor said she had “positive experiences” with cameras during federal appeals court arguments and she was confident she could persuade other justices to try broadcast coverage, the National Law Journal reports. But she has apparently changed her mind.

During her book tour, Sotomayor has expressed misgivings that televised oral arguments “could be more misleading than helpful.” According to New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer blog, at one appearance she contrasted the careful analysis that goes into a Supreme Court decision with oral arguments in which justices’ views are not explained. “Oral argument is the forum in which the judge plays devil’s advocate with lawyers,” she said.

The NLJ story points out that many justices who were at least open-minded on the camera question during their confirmation hearings later disapproved of the idea.

The NLJ recounts several theories for the changed opinions. Perhaps justices are swayed by Supreme Court tradition, or maybe they want to preserve their anonymity. Or perhaps they see bad experiences with media coverage—of their own confirmation hearings and most recently of oral arguments on the constitutionality of the health care law. Audio of those arguments was altered in one political website ad.

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