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Plea for TV of health care hearings

Against very long odds, the C-SPAN network on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to allow live television coverage of the oral arguments that are to be held in March on the constitutionality of the new federal health care law.   In a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., the cable group’s chairman Brian Lamb asked the Court to “set aside any misgivings” it has about broadcast coverage because of the impact of the cases on the people and the nation, as well as the fact that the law’s validity will be an issue in the presidential and congressional election campaign.  The Court had no response.

The Court has never allowed television coverage of its hearings in pending cases, even on a delayed basis.   There has long been a resistance among several Justices to having cameras in the courtroom, and it seems most unlikely that the Justices would now make an exception for the health care arguments.   For several years, the Court allowed same-day release of the audiotapes of selected arguments in high-visibility cases, but it stopped even that practice in September of last year (see the Court’s press release).  Now, all of the audiotapes for a given week’s oral arguments are released on Friday of that week.

C-SPAN’s Lamb, in his letter, copies of which were sent to the other eight Justices, promised to work with the Court to ensure that video equipment would be “unobtrusive and respectful of the process.”   He argued that “the public interest is best served by live television coverage of this particular oral argument.”

The Court has long had a different view of what serves “the public interest” about its proceedings.


Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Plea for TV of health care hearings, SCOTUSblog (Nov. 15, 2011, 5:14 PM),