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Justices hold out because they can

Thursday, April 04, 2013 - Updated: 4:10 PM

For many citizens of the United States, last week's Supreme Court arguments over the constitutionality of a ban on same-sex marriage were a matter of some interest.

Why wouldn't they be?

A central issue of how we live was put to nine people who may decide the matter for all of us.

For more than 300 million people, it could come down to one vote on the closely fractured high court.

Yet, once again, the public was frozen out, save the 120 or so commoners who managed to score a ticket to either of the two days of arguments.

(Scoring a ticket meant either standing in line through several days and nights of a miserable early spring in Washington or paying a significant amount of money to someone to do it for you.)

Oh, sure, the court deigned to release audio tapes of the session a couple of hours after arguments. (Why the audio has to be delayed is a puzzlement. It comes off as just one more opportunity for the justices to kick sand in the face of citizens, one more opportunity to show who is boss.)

But no video recordings are made of any Supreme Court arguments, nor is live blogging or tweeting allowed from the courtroom.

The court has given no good reason for banning modern means of conveying audio, images and instant text representations of the workings of the court technology because there is none.

Much of the technology for modern communication can be as unobtrusive as it is commonplace. Commonplace, that is, everywhere except at the high court.

As we noted a year ago when the court heard arguments over the constitutionality of Obamacare, the court stubbornly clings to its policy of opacity in an age of increasing transparency.

The justices hold out against modern transparency for the same reason that autocracies everywhere do -- because they can.

But Congress has broad rule-making powers over the judiciary -- including the Supreme Court -- and could end the court's stubborn arrogance by simply passing a law that opens proceedings to live coverage, from video and audio to tweeting and live blogging.

Congress should do so. The court's public workings should be opened to the public as much as is practicable.

-- The Kingston Daily Freeman


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