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Ginsburg: TV Has Changed High Court Hearings

Saturday, 28 Aug 2010 07:06 AM

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said television has profoundly changed confirmation hearings but declined to say Friday whether she'd oppose televising arguments.

Ginsburg told a Colorado judicial conference that TV has made Supreme Court confirmation hearings much longer because senators posture for cameras.

"The people on the Senate Judiciary Committee have all that free time" to stump for the audience, Ginsburg said.

Ginsburg demurred, however, on the question of televising arguments before the high court. She talked about former justices who opposed cameras.

Without naming anyone currently on the court, Ginsburg said, "When you're sitting on a collegial bench, if there is any of you who would be extremely discomforted ... you would defer to that colleague."

Ginsburg talked to several hundred judges gathered for a judicial conference of the U.S. 10th Circuit Court. The justice delivered a speech written by her recently deceased husband, Martin Ginsburg. Martin Ginsburg, a prominent lawyer in his own right, was originally scheduled to address the gathering and prepared the remarks before his death from cancer in June.

After reading the speech, she Ginsburg joined the chief jurist of Canada's Supreme Court, Beverly McLachlin, in a question-and-answer session.

Nina Totenberg, who covers the Supreme Court for National Public Radio, asked the justices about the growing acceptance of women on the bench. Both said the legal profession, and society, has made great strides on gender equality since they started their careers. Ginsburg and McLachlin both said it wasn't easy to be a female lawyer when they started.

Ginsburg told a humorous story about having a young son while teaching law school at Columbia University in New York. When her rambunctious boy acted up in class, she would get frequent calls from his school.

"One day, I was particularly wary, and I said, 'This child has two parents. I suggest you alternate calls,'" Ginsburg said. After that, she recalled, the school called less often — more hesitant to disturb a man at work than to disturb a woman at work.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in the crowd but didn't join Ginsburg on stage. Sotomayor was to speak to the judges In a closed-door session Saturday.

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