Monday, October 21, 2002

free speech in the court?

Many people following the Supreme Court oral argument in the Eldred v. Ashcroft case learned something about the practices of the Supreme Court over the last few weeks. One is that notes aren't allowed to be taken by the public while watching the arguments. I'm sure that there must be some reason for that. But, I can't think of what it is. Akhil Reed Amar asks the same thing over at findlaw, in an article called Too Much Order in the Court: How The Justices Betray Their Own Free Speech Principles:
The Supreme Court bars television cameras and radio microphones from its public oral arguments. Transcripts of the dialogue between attorneys and the Justices are not posted on the Court's website until weeks have passed and the public's interest has waned. Members of the public may not even take notes in the gallery about what is being said in open court.

Meanwhile, in its opinions, the Court trumpets the importance of free speech and press access.
It may be that the greatest victory from the Eldred case might not be whether or not the copyright extension law is declared unconstitutional, but rather that the public is viewing the actions of the Court, and of the Congress much more carefully these days.

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