Sotomayor Does an About Face on Cameras in Courtroom

Friday, 08 Feb 2013 10:41 AM

By Lisa Barron

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has had a change of heart about bringing cameras into the courtroom.

"The process could be more misleading than helpful," she said, when asked about the issue during an event in Manhattan this week, reports New York magazine. "It's like reading tea leaves."

Sotomayor said cameras, which would show oral arguments but not the justices' deliberations, could be misleading. "If people analyzed it, it is true that in almost every argument you can find a hint of what every judge would rule. But most justices are actually probing all the arguments."

That's not what she seemed to suggest at her confirmation hearing in 2009, when she said, "I have had positive experiences with cameras. When I have been asked to join experiments of using cameras in the courtroom, I have participated. I have volunteered."

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Sotomayor later told Sen. Arlen Specter that she would "certainly relay those positive experiences" to her future Supreme Court colleagues.

At the time, she called the issue of cameras in the high court "important," adding: "There's legislation being considered both by — or has been considered by — Congress at various times, and there's much discussion between the branches on that issue."

The idea of using cameras to televise the court's oral arguments has been supported by many advocacy groups and has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

According to The Hill newspaper, members of the Supreme Court, especially older ones, have argued that the presence of cameras could reduce oral arguments to showmanship, as many argue it has with congressional hearings.

During this week's appearance, Sotomayor said that viewing oral arguments would not provide a proper explanation of the justices' ruling. "Oral argument is the forum in which the judge plays devil's advocate with lawyers," she said.





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