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The 'Obamacare' decision: Not coming to a TV screen near you

June 22, 2012|By Michael McGough
  • The Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling on the healthcare reform law soon.
The Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling on the healthcare reform… (Alex Brandon / Associated…)

Just as Charlie Brown always trusts that this time Lucy won’t snatch away the football before he kicks it, advocates of cameras in the Supreme Court still hope that the justices might say yes to pleas that they allow their faces to be plastered on TV screens.

On Tuesday, both the chairman and the ranking Republican of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked that the justices allow TV cameras to capture the announcement of its opinions in the challenge to "Obamacare." In a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Sens. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said: “A minimal number of cameras in the courtroom, which could be placed to be barely noticeable to all participants, would provide live coverage of what may be one of the most historic rulings of our time. We believe permitting the nation to watch the proceedings would bolster public confidence in our judicial system and in the decisions of the court.”

I’m not sure about that, but I’m pretty sure the senators won’t get their wish. Allowing TV cameras in the courtroom for the announcement of the majority opinion -- and perhaps the reading aloud of what reporters call a “stinging dissent” -- would require informing the media of the impending announcement before the fact. Such advance notice is the ultimate taboo for the justices, who in general aren’t driven to accommodate the media. If they cared about reporters, they wouldn’t bunch up the big decisions at the end of the term, as they are doing this week and next.

Having witnessed plenty of opinion announcements when I covered the courts, I do think the public would find it interesting, if not exactly edifying. By the way, those “stinging” dissents are often read in a mild-mannered tone.

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