Time for cameras in the courtroom
This term of the Supreme Court is full of cases of broad public interest.
Justices will hear arguments on whether the Affordable Care Act adversely religious freedom, affirmative action, prayer at public meetings and the scope of federal power.
One thing that isn't on the justices' docket is their court's own transparency, which is abysmal for the second decade of the 21st century.
Most arguments are recorded but tapes aren't available until the end of the week in which the argument is heard. Tapes of pronouncements of decisions from the bench aren't available until the beginning of the next court term, months later.
And, of course, there is no television.
As noted by Tony Mauro of The National Law Journal during a recent seminar, financial disclosure documents for justices must be obtained with a written request and they are provided "on paper, for a fee, and only after the justices have been told who's asking for them."
Opposition to courtroom cameras used to center on the prospect for distraction - a concern that technology long ago answered. Now the concern is "tradition," without an explanation of why the tradition of court isolation in an open society is a tradition worth keeping.
There is great educational potential in televising court proceedings.
As former prosecutor Kenneth Starr recently told The Washington Post, the justices are "professionals doing very professional work - they're not sitting there reading 'Green Eggs and Ham.'"
He also noted that former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor often has expressed the pride she feels when she sees three women justices take their seats on the bench for hearing.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful for us all to be able to see that?" Mr. Starr asked. Indeed it would. The justices should make it happen.