You would not think that a con­sti­tu­tional law argu­ment before the jus­tices of the Supreme Court the stuff of engaging nights in the the­atre. Sto­ries of lawyers pre­senting their legal posi­tions and mem­bers of the Court chal­lenging and clar­i­fying what they hear may be the high light of a bar asso­ci­a­tion dinner but plainly for laymen the prospect is an invi­ta­tion to snooze.

The jus­tices them­selves have so little con­fi­dence in the enter­tain­ment value of their public face that the Court con­tinues to resist tele­vising its pro­ceed­ings. They fear oral argu­ment will be too tech­nical and that the assump­tions and premises behind those argu­ments are so opaque that the public will receive an unfa­vor­able impres­sion of what the Court does and how it does it.

Even worse, there are jus­tices who believe that if argu­ments are tele­vised, some of their col­leagues will play to the crowd, either dumbing down the ques­tions they ask or show boating for the camera. All of this adds up, some argue, to a Court that could become even more politi­cized than it is; enough reason to over­ride any ben­e­fits in public edu­ca­tion likely to come from a more trans­parent jus­tice system.

 

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