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Sapere aude - dare to be wise
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
C-SPAN to Air Same Day Oral Argument in Abortion Case
Posted 1:28 AM by Luke
The WashPost's excellent Campaign for the Supreme Court blog carries this blurb from a C-SPAN press release:
Wednesday's one-hour, Supreme Court oral argument in a noted abortion case will air at approximately 12:15 p.m. ET on C-SPAN, C-SPAN Radio and as soon as the recording is released by the Court.

The Supreme Court agreed earlier this month to the same-day release of audio recordings of oral arguments in two upcoming cases of particular national interest, in response to a request from C-SPAN.

The two cases to be aired on C-SPAN are today's Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England abortion case and a December 6th military recruitment case, Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic & Institutional Rights.


I realize that the same-day airing of only two cases will not cause earth-shattering effects, but I sincerely hope that this does not mark the beginning of a trend. Lawyers arguing before the justices should only be concerned with one thing: convincing those justices of their case. Likewise, the justices should only be concerned with hearing those lawyers and asking them insightful questions.

This argument is not new: live or same-day airing of oral arguments would politicize the court and would thus be a harmful development. The lawyers and the justices would be tempted to pander to public opinion, even though they are not and should not be beholden to it. The court already has been overly politicized and we see the result: a populace which is dangerously ignorant regarding its function. Too many people see the justices as representatives and the court as a super-legislative body.

We see the result: confirmation hearings that threaten to shut down the Senate and that involve investigations into nominees' video rental records.

So why should we fan the flames by airing oral arguments like this? I say the current level of publicity and transparency is quite sufficient.

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