Joe Lapointe has worked as a sports reporter with the New York Times and a segment producer for "Countdown With Keith Olbermann'' on Current TV
Beginning on Monday, when the Supreme Court hears three days of oral arguments about the health-care law, the sessions will enjoy less public exposure than an NCAA tournament basketball game or a car chase on a Los Angeles freeway.
And this is wrong. The hearings should be televised live and in their entirety. Lawmakers and C-SPAN ----- along with much of the public and the news media ---- want live cameras in the sessions.
The Court recently said "No!" with only a small compromise. Audio recordings of the arguments will be available a few hours after they take place.
That is better than delaying them until the end of the week, the current practice, but it is not enough. Viewers can infer a great deal by seeing the facial expressions and body-language tics of judges asking questions as well as by listening to their tone of voice and choice of questions.
Brian Lamb, the founder of C-SPAN, told Howard Kurtz on CNN's "Reliable Sources" Sunday that the judges "have their own reasons" for limiting their visibility "and we can't change their minds."
Lamb added that same-day audio is "a tremendous addition" and "a very positive thing."
"We just hope that they can take one more step," Lamb told Kurtz.
One of the common doubletalk arguments against live TV in the Court is that it's very boring and few will watch. Let the viewers be the judge of that. Besides, there is more at stake in the health-care debate that entertainment value.
Another false rationale for Court secrecy is that the justices will be tempted to grandstand and show off for the cameras. But this is rarely the case in lesser courts which have used television cameras for decades. Why would our most mature and wise judges be different?
Perhaps it is because Justices John Roberts, Anthony Scalia, Clarence Thomas and other Republican appointees have hidden reasons for operating in the dark shadows rather than the bright sunlight.
Since the Supreme Court helped the Republican George W. Bush steal the presidency from the Democrat Al Gore in 2000, the Court has proven to be highly political and biased toward right-wing conservatives. As much as the legislative or executive branch, the judicial branch of our government requires constant monitoring.
A nullification of President Obama's major achievement of his first term will be at least a temporary victory for health insurers and their propagandists who would prefer the old system of denying health coverage to sick people whose care would threaten their profit margins.
Should the court come to this "conservative" and Republican conclusion, many people will suffer and some may die. The potential victims of the Court and their loved ones deserve at least the chance to both hear and see on live TV the entire public process involving this hyper-political gang of nine.
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