The Latest on Cameras in the Supreme Court

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh broke precedent during his confirmation hearings by declining to take a stance on cameras in the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh acknowledged that many recent nominees have suggested during confirmation hearings that they would support video coverage of the oral arguments at the Court, but then promptly reversed themselves upon taking a seat on the bench.  

Image result for cameras in supreme court“I know nominees who’ve sat in this chair in the past have expressed the desire for cameras in the courtroom, only to get to the Supreme Court and really change their positions fairly rapidly,” Kavanaugh said. The pattern gave him “some humility” about taking a stance on the issue before serving on the Court.

Kavanaugh also declined to express support for televising opinion announcements.

The public supports bringing cameras to the Supreme Court, according to a recent survey. C-SPAN commissioned research-based consultants PSB to conduct the poll. Based on online interviews of 1000 likely voters from August 2018, 64% agree that the U.S. Supreme Court should allow television coverage of its oral arguments.  If the Court declines to allow televised coverage, 71% believe it should release audio recordings on the same day arguments took place.

Other interesting findings from the survey:

  • 69% had been following the news about President Trump’s nominee to the bench;
  • 91% agreed that decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court affect their everyday lives as citizens.

In light of the finding that 56% of respondents think that the Court is split politically, PSB Senior Strategist Adam Rosenblatt told Observer, “People are just assuming that they’re partisan entities. That has very serious implications.”

The Court appears unlikely to change its anti-camera policy soon. As CNN notes, none of the current justices support the idea. Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, who expressed support for cameras in the Supreme Court during their confirmation hearing,  both publicly stated on the same day in 2015 that they no longer favor the idea. Justice Gorsuch said during his confirmation hearing merely that he would approach the idea with an “open mind” but has not said anything more about the issue since.


This post was written by ISCOTUS Fellow Bridget Flynn, Chicago-Kent Class of 2019, and edited by ISCOTUS Editorial Coordinator Matthew Webber, Chicago-Kent Class of 2019, and ISCOTUS Co-Director and Chicago-Kent Faculty Member Christopher W. Schmidt.

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