Monday, February 18, 2013

Knowledge Is Too Complicated to be Shared With the Masses

At least that's the impression I get from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She's quoted in Monday's New York Times as being opposed to televising oral arguments before the court. "I don’t think most viewers take the time to actually delve into either the briefs or the legal arguments to appreciate what the court is doing," she was quoted as saying. "Very few of them understand what the process is." The article notes that this is contrary to the position she took at her confirmation hearings where she said she was in favor of letting citizens see their government at work.

This attitude of "you wouldn't understand so, there's no point in trying to explain it to you," reminds me of my parent's response the first time I asked about the birds and the bees.

It is true, those oral arguments can be deadly boring. Given a choice between finding out if Dick got down with Jane on "The Young and the Restless," and listening to judges question lawyers about the subtleties of the Commerce Clause, I'm sure most TV viewers would pick the former over the latter. But is that a reason to black out coverage of oral arguments at the Supreme Court?

Besides, audio of oral arguments before the court has been available for many years at the Oyez Project's website. Other than catching the odd justice nodding off during court proceedings, what would be the harm in allowing them to be televised?

It's a little peculiar that here in the U.S. we can watch "Prime Minister's Question Time" on CSPAN but can't watch the proceedings of the U.S. Supreme Court on either cable or broadcast TV. Maybe Justice Sotomayor is a "Young and the Restless" fan?