Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Cameras in the courts

I actually really don't get it. Why are Americans - and the courts - so happy to have cameras in trial courts, but not in the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court?

The courts cite all these worries - security is a big one. But honestly, if I wanted to see what Justice Kennedy looked like, it wouldn't be too hard on Google (that picture was the second listing on my search).

And the strange thing is, as usual, no one ever looks at the Canadian model.

In Canada, proceedings of the 13 provincial and territorial Courts of Appeal are televised, as also with the Supreme Court. Trial courts are subject to strict media bans. The exact opposite of the US (everyone remembers Judge Ito?)

This makes enormous sense. In trial courts, the issues are between the litigants, or the Crown and the accused. Other than mere entertainment, the public has no real interest (given most constitutional cases are decided without trial).

Courts of Appeal, and the Supreme Court, are different. They don't decide fact - they decide law. The law affects us all. So sure - an issue from a trial court goes up, but the law decided could conceivably affect us all, not just the litigants.

It makes enormous sense to televise higher courts' proceedings, and none at all to televise lower courts'.

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