August 30, 2011

Will cameras one day be a fixture in the California Supreme Court?

This article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discusses the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision, starting next month, to allow two robotic cameras to operate in its courtrooms. Rebroadcasts of its oral arguments will then be televised on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN), the Commonwealth’s statewide public interest network funded by cable operators. The decision caps a seven year effort by PCN to gain camera access to the court’s oral arguments. Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald Castille explained the decision by saying: “This court thinks it’s important to show the citizens what we do.” In addition to oral arguments, the network will also provide some special programming on the history of the court.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision made us wonder whether the California Supreme Court might one day follow suit. Already the Court is in the habit of televising certain high-profile oral arguments on the California Channel, most recently in Perry v. Brown, the Prop 8 case. This has the benefit of serving as a much needed lesson in civics and government (the Chief Justice is on record as saying that even the legislators in Sacramento do not fully appreciate the courts and their function). We’re not sure how much programming is available on such topics as the history of the Court. But one example is this documentary about former Justice Cruz Reynoso, which is set to air on a local Sacramento television station next month.

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