This morning, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit permitted a live audio feed of an oral argument in Garza v. Hargen, a case involving whether the government should allow an undocumented teenage immigrant to obtain an abortion. It was the first live broadcast in the D.C. Circuit since a 2001 hearing in the Microsoft antitrust suit. Chief Judge Merrick Garland permitted the live stream in response to a request from the transparency group Fix the Court.
Although the argument itself has come and gone, the audio is available on the court’s website.
As the United States Supreme Court begins another Term this month, calls for the Court to open its oral arguments to cameras are getting louder. The Court has traditionally brushed off these demands, and there is little reason to believe that it will respond differently this year. But there is yet hope for supporters of court transparency: the state courts continue to lead the way in allowing broadcasts of courtroom proceedings. Two examples from just this week illustrate the point:
Continue reading “On courtroom cameras, states continue to lead the way”
Maine is undertaking a $15 million program to digitize its court records, but some of those records will only be available to those who physically travel to the courthouse. The story and commentary can be found here.
Barring an order to seal the records, they really should be made publicly available online.
Justice Stephen Breyer appeared on a television interview with CBS This Morning‘s Norah O’Donnell last Thursday night, portions of which were shown on the television program on Friday morning. Breyer argued that cameras should not be placed in the Court in part because it could change the behavior of lawyers or Justices during argument. The full transcript and some video is here.
This is a silly position. Perhaps cameras would affect behavior a bit, but that change would be marginal at best. The Supreme Court already (and thankfully) has live audiences for its oral arguments — is a lawyer arguing before the Court and more than a hundred observers really likely to be affected by the presence of a camera or two? Nor have the Justices shown any individual reticence to talk to large crowds, or in front of cameras.
Maybe the Supreme Court should just hold its oral arguments in a private room, with only counsel attending, lest the presence of anyone else in the room make the Justices uncomfortable. Or maybe they should embrace the transparency in adjudication that historically has made the United States judicial system the envy of the world.
A federal court in Miami has denied the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss a putative class action alleging that users of the federal courts’ electronic records system (PACER) were improperly charged for accessing records. The government had argued that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the case, and that the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
Law.com has the story here. And for those who do not want to pay PACER fees, the court’s order is here. 🙂
UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: The Florida lawsuit here is separate from the lawsuit in the first linked story. That suit, filed in the federal district court in the District of Columbia, has already certified a class. Both cases apparently will now go forward.
Regular readers of this blog know that I am strong advocate of broadcasting courtroom proceedings. But increasing use of cameras and live streaming may mean the death knell for vivid courtroom illustration. Natasha Frost has a very interesting article at Atlas Obscura that looks at some of the history of this dying art.
On the heels of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s first live broadcast of an oral argument last week, the Minnesota Supreme Court has announced that it will begin live streaming its own oral arguments next week. The first live streamed case will involve a dispute between Governor Mark Dayton and the state legislature.
In a statement, Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea said the court is “committed to maintaining the public’s trust in our Court, and ensuring the openness and accessibility of our public proceedings.”
“By livestreaming our oral arguments, we hope to give more Minnesotans the opportunity to see their highest Court in action, and to learn more about how our Court considers and decides the important legal matters that come before us,” she said.