Symposium on Televising the Supreme Court

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The Michigan Law Review’s companion journal First Impressions today published an online symposium discussing the televising of Supreme Court proceedings. The symposium takes place against a backdrop provided by legislation pending in the House and Senate that would require the Supreme Court to televise its proceedings.

A diverse group of authors explores the implications of the prospective legislation and considers potential risks and benefits of televising the Court’s proceedings. The extended post contains a more complete description of the symposium as well as the full text of the essays.


The Honorable Boyce F. Martin, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit contends that televising Supreme Court proceedings would help educate Americans about how their government works and heighten awareness of important legal issues.

University of Michigan Law Professor Christina B. Whitman argues that televising Supreme Court proceedings would mislead viewers by only randomly telling them something useful about the Court and is unnecessary because the Court is already more open than the government’s other branches.

Supreme Court Correspondent for the Legal Times Tony Mauro believes that Senator Specter’s legislation is worthwhile but contends the bill would have greater appeal if Senator Specter changed the focus of his efforts to see it enacted. Specter, he argues, should emphasize the benefits of televising to the public’s right to know rather than justifying the legislation as punishment for the Justices’ questioning of congressional motives.

Corporate Vice President and General Counsel for C-SPAN Bruce D. Collins describes C-SPAN’s past efforts to televise Supreme Court proceedings and clarifies how C-SPAN, if given the opportunity, would approach televising the Court.

Appellate litigator Kenneth N. Flaxman provides a practitioner’s perspective, explaining why televising Supreme Court proceedings would make his job as arguing counsel easier.

Fairleigh Dickinson University Professor of American Politics and the Judicial Process Bruce Peabody assesses whether Senator Specter’s legislation would breach constitutional etiquette.

University of Michigan J.D. Candidate Scott C. Wilcox proposes a compromise: to forestall congressional action, the Justices should consider voluntarily introducing archival video recording to be available for viewing at the National Archives.

To download a PDF of the entire symposium, click here. Additional First Impressions content is available at http://www.michiganlawreview.org/.

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1 Response

  1. Frank says:

    The archival video idea sounds like a very good compromise. I’ve certainly found the tapes I’ve listened to very interesting. But I would worry about the chilling effect of immediate media coverage on a robust debate during oral arguments.