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Supreme Court Blocks Public From Watching Prop. 8 Trial

Bmaz reports that the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision along ideological lines, has ruled to uphold the stay on public broadcasts of the Prop 8 trial. That includes the YouTube broadcasts as well as the simulcasts to other courtrooms around the country. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the trial and not the desire on the part of the majority to block hypothetical cameras from coming into their courtroom, but they had to adjudicate on the facts of the case, and on this point they were simply off. As the Legal Times puts it:

The decision does not speak broadly about the issue of camera access to federal trials, but does state that “irreparable harm” would result from wide broadcast of the trial, because of possible witness harassment and intimidation. Proponents of Proposition 8, who opposed the telecast, warned of the harms, though the advocates of same-sex marriage, who favored broadcast access, said the claims were without foundation.

That’s because they are, in fact, without foundation. People are liveblogging from the trial as we speak. The testimony will become, by law, part of the public record. Every name of every witness will be known to whoever wants to know it, as well as the content of their remarks. To the extent that there would be any harassment (and this is a stretch itself), anyone seeking to harass would already, without the video, have the tools they needed to do so. The Supreme Court is, frankly, talking nonsense. UPDATE: Justice Breyer says so in his dissent:

… By way of comparison literally hundreds of national and international newspapers are already covering this trial and reporting in detail the names and testimony of all of the witnesses. See, e.g., Leff, Woman Recalls Emotional Ordeal of Gay Marriage Ban, Associated Press, Jan. 11, 2010. I see no reason why the incremental increase in exposure caused by transmitting these proceedings to five additional courtrooms would create any further risk of harm, as the Court apparently believes.

Bmaz has this right:

It is curious that the Supreme Court is fine with a video feed to other locations in the same courthouse as the trial, but not to other secure Federal courthouses. Again, it must be assumed this is all about insuring that the objecting five pompous justices never have to have their demeanor and conduct seen by the citizens they serve. As I explained in the previous post, the Supreme Court, in Chandler v. Florida, has already admitted it is not about constitutional due process; therefore it is, whether admitted or not, about their vanity and elitism.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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