the Irish for rights

It’ll never catch on here …

First Impressions via Concurring Opinions

Via MediaLawProf Blog and Concurring Opinions, I learn of a fascinating symposium (html | pdf) in First Impressions, an online companion to the Michigan Law Review, on Televising the US Supreme Court. The articles wax and wane on the issue. From the Concurring Opinions post (with its links to pdfs of the individual articles):

The Honorable Boyce F. Martin, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit contends that televising Supreme Court proceedings would help educate Americans about how their government works and heighten awareness of important legal issues.

University of Michigan Law Professor Christina B. Whitman argues that televising Supreme Court proceedings would mislead viewers by only randomly telling them something useful about the Court and is unnecessary because the Court is already more open than the government’s other branches.

Supreme Court Correspondent for the Legal Times Tony Mauro believes that Senator Specter … should emphasize the benefits of televising to the public’s right to know rather than justifying the legislation as punishment for the Justices’ questioning of congressional motives. …

University of Michigan J.D. Candidate Scott C. Wilcox proposes a compromise: to forestall congressional action, the Justices should consider voluntarily introducing archival video recording to be available for viewing at the National Archives.

Of course, it’ll never catch on here … not the televising of the Supreme Court (though that won’t either) but the discussion of whether it should even happen.

Update (25 May 2007): One reason why I’d like courts of final appeal to be televised is provided by the following exchange from the High Court of Australia (hat tip: Peter Black’s Freedom to Differ):

… here is an amusing moment in the High Court from oral argument in Santos Limited v Chaffey:

MR BENNETT: We would submit that that is simply something that is so far from the concept of acquisition of property, even though that may be its apparent affect on a particular person, that it is outside the prohibition. To argue to the contrary and to say that one looks only at the effect on the particular person, is to pick up – there is only one case I know which picks up that argument and that of course is The Castle where it was argued that the nature of one’s home was such that it was something the acquisition of which was in a different category because of its significance to the owner. The argument succeeded in that case, but the case is not generally regarded as authoritative for that proposition. Those, your Honours, are the submissions for the Attorney-General.

GLEESON CJ: Thank you, Mr Solicitor. Yes, Mr Walker?

I would love to have seen the expressions on the judges’ faces while listening to this closing submission. The Castle (imdb | wikipedia) is a tremendously funny Australian movie about a family who resisted the compulsory purchase of their home to make way for an expansion of Melbourne airport (well, tremendously funny for many Australians and some lawyers). It’s pretty formulaic – David versus Goliath; dysfunctional family triumph against the odds – but elevated above the routine by strong performances and some gems in the script. In one gloriously memorable scene, the family’s riotously incompetent lawyer (in whom they have a misplaced if unshakeable faith – think Lionel Hutz from The Simpsons and take away reason and accountability), submits that the compulsory purchase should not be allowed to proceed for constitutional property reasons:

…in summing up, it’s the Constitution, it’s Mabo, it’s justice, it’s law, it’s the vibe and… no, that’s it. It’s the vibe.

Better representation eventually wins the day for the family, and they get to keep their house. And that, in part, is the submission in Santos Limited v Chaffey. However,whilst the expressions on the judges’ faces would have been priceless, the main reason for televising this case is that it relates, as The Castle did, to a matter which affects the everyone’s lives: the constitutionality of a statute which potentially infringes upon property rights.

Bismark remarked that those who like sausages and laws would sleep easier not seeing either being made; I happen to like both, and happen to think that I’d sleep a lot easier in the knowledge that I could see that they were both being made to the highest standards. Moreover, if we can see laws being made (even on the rather dire Oireachtas Report on RTÉ) why can we not see when they are being found constitutional or not? And when will we actually start to discuss this issue?

5 Responses to “It’ll never catch on here …”

  1. Eoin says:

    From Slaw:

    AG Opens the Court House Door via Webcasts

    Ontario to webcast some court proceedings and archive them online for 90 days.

    TORONTO — In line with the recommendations of the Panel on Justice and the Media, some court proceedings will soon be webcast and provided to the media, Attorney General Michael Bryant announced today.

    “Webcasting court proceedings and providing copies to the news media on DVD will increase the openness of our justice system,” said Bryant. “Dropping photocopy and inspection fees for court files by as much as two-thirds will increase access to the justice system. Faster, more open and affordable access to court records and proceedings will help the public and the media be full witnesses to the administration of justice.”

    Bryant made the announcement at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Toronto, where he updated journalists in a town hall style meeting on the implementation of recommendations made by the Panel on Justice and the Media. Bryant also formally accepted the “Code of Silence Award”, which was awarded to him in 2006 by the Canadian Association of Journalists for having the highest fees in the country for accessing court records. Bryant is the first recipient to ever show up and personally collect the annual award.

    Bryant also announced that, under a pilot project set to begin by summer, some proceedings in Courtroom #1 at the Court of Appeal for Ontario will be streamed live on the Internet. DVD copies of proceedings will be provided to the media twice per day and will be available for use by journalism and law schools and other organizations for educational and training purposes. Proceedings will also be archived on the site for 90 days to ensure round-the-clock public access.

    While cameras are generally prohibited under the Courts of Justice Act, they are permissible for educational or instructional purposes, with approval from the presiding judge and consent from the parties to the proceeding. Bryant originally announced this pilot project during this year’s Opening of the Courts ceremony, in response to another recommendation made by the Panel on Justice and the Media.

    This follows the Report last year on Cameras in the Courts.”

  2. […] would be a criminal offence (Freedom to Differ) (a clause just crying out for a movie like The Castle). In Pennsylvania v Long (31 May 2007) the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held: Taking in mind the […]

  3. […] the same in the UK is an excellent development. When will the Irish Supreme Court follow suit? Will it ever catch on here? It can only help to promote public confidence in the administration of justice at the highest […]

  4. […] secure at the top of an independent judicial arm of government. So, when will it follow suit, and televise its proceedings too? If you like this post, please click on this link to pass it on. Thanks! Hide […]

  5. […] more here. My earlier posts on the issue are here, here and here. If you like this post, please click on this link to pass it on. Thanks! […]

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Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I'm Eoin O'Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie - the Irish for rights.

"Cearta" really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

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