Tag Archives: The New York Times Co

Is the U.S. Supreme Court due for a camera in its courtroom?

 Judges have been open to the prospect of having cameras in court in just about every situation I’ve encountered in our local court system.  As you ascend to the higher courts, the access is just as good — indeed, the Washington State Supreme Court is often broadcasted on TVW, the state’s cable network.

But there’s a ceiling to that access: the U.S. Supreme Court.

Something that surprises me is that no cameras have ever been allowed into the chambers of the highest court in the land, even despite the court’s limited seating. That means less access to witness the oral arguments concerning many of the most important issues of our time.

In the New York Times on Sunday, Kenneth W. Starr — who you may recall from his days as special prosecutor investigating a few alleged indiscretions of President Bill Clinton — called for the high court to finally allow cameras.

” … There is no reason the public should be denied access to their consideration of and arguments about urgent questions — from global warming to health care — that affect us all,” he wrote in the Times. “Cameras in the courtroom of the United States Supreme Court are long overdue.”

Critics, some of them on the court itself, have argued the justices could begin jockeying for sound bytes to generate publicity. But as Starr points out, you can already get the audio recordings of the court sessions.

Would you support opening the supreme court to cameras? And if so, why?


Do Feds Have Case Against Man Advocating Jury Nullification?

The concept of jury nullification has once again made headlines, this time for a retired professor charged by federal prosecutors with jury tampering.

The New York Times had the story Friday: Julian P. Heicklen, a retired chemistry professor from Penn State, has been distributing pamphlets “encouraging jurors to ignore the law if they disagree with it, and to render verdicts based on conscience,” outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan, according to Times writer Benjamin Weiser.

Jury nullification, which you may recall from an incident in early 2010 in Kitsap County Superior Court, is the idea that jurors can ignore the court’s instructions of following the law, and decide guilt or innocence based on their own feelings.

The federal government walks a fine First Amendment line in bringing such charges. But the courts have historically not liked a behavior which, to put it bluntly, undermines their authority.

As the New York Times notes from one source:

“This is classic political advocacy,” Christopher T. Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said of Mr. Heicklen’s pamphleteering. “Unless the government can show that he’s singling out jurors to influence a specific verdict, it’s squarely protected by the First Amendment, and they should dismiss the case.”

I am curious what people around here think of this prosecution, and further, of the concept of jury nullification in general.