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"Terrific Thing" Says Kagan, on Cameras in Court

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, June 29 2010

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan reiterated her standing as a fan of video cameras in the Supreme Court, during her Senate confirmation hearing earlier today. Kagan made deferential noises to her would-be colleagues on the bench, some of whom don't like the idea or are undecided. But she stood firmly by the notion that televising Supreme Court proceedings would be a "terrific thing," not the least because it would show the American public "an institution of government at work in a really admirable way" -- something she's witnessed up close in her role as Solicitor General of the United States.

The question was put to her by Senator Herb Kohl Democrat of Wisconsin. "Solicitor General Kagan," asked Kohl, "how do you feel about permitting cameras in the Supreme Court for oral arguments?"

"Senator Kohl, this is actually something I spoke about as Solicitor General, before I was every nominated to this court," Kagan began, "so I have expressed a view on this question and I recognize that some members of the court have a different view, and certainly when -- and if -- I get to the court, I will talk with them about that question."

"But I have said that I think it would be a terrific thing to have cameras in the courtroom. And the reason, I think, is...when you see what happens there, it's an inspiring sight." She went on. "I basically attend every Supreme argument. You know, once a month I argue before the court. When I'm not arguing, I'm sitting in the front row watching some member of my office or somebody else argue. And it's an incredible sight, because all nine justices, they are so prepared, so smart. They're so thorough. They're so engaged. The questioning is rapid fire. You're really seeing an institution of government at work, I think, in a really admirable way. And of course, the issues are important ones." She reconsidered a moment. "Well, you know, some of them will put you to sleep, you know. But a lot of them, the American people should be really concerned about and should be interested in. So, I think it would be a great thing for the institution and more importantly it would be a great thing for the American people."

"Having said that, I have to say that I understand that some of the current justices have different views, have concerns about it. Maybe that they think it would actually change the way the Supreme Court arguments do work. I would very much want to talk with them about those views. On almost every issue, I'm open to being persuaded that I'm wrong.

"But on this one," she shrugged, "I have expressed a real view, and it's the one I hold: that it would be a great thing for the court, and it would be a great thing for the American people."

In her confirmation hearing, Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke in favor of the idea of having cameras in the court, though with less enthusiasm than did Kagan. "I have had positive experiences with cameras," said the former district court judge at the time.