Supreme Court on right track
A welcome news release from our state’s high court reads: “The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ... announced that its entire Sept. 13 oral argument session, which includes hearings on the state’s second legislative redistricting plan and the voter ID law, will be televised live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). The hearings are being held in the court’s Philadelphia City Hall courtroom.
“Oral arguments will begin at 9:3M a.m. in the Supreme Court’s Philadelphia courtroom, room 456 of City Hall. Strict decorum will be observed. Because of limited seating, obVHUYHUV wLOO EH DdPLWWHd Rn D fiUVW FRPH, fiUVW VHUYHd EDVLV. Once the courtroom is full, those not admitted may wait in line to take a seat as those who were seated leave. The sessions held on the 11th and 12th will be taped for future airing by PCN.” That’s an excellent move on the part of the Supreme Court. Legislative redistricting and soter ID are of intense interest to state citizens — at least to those politicially engaged.
People who can’t personally attend the court proceedings — most of us — should be able to tune in and hear the attorneys’ arguments and the justices’ questions on matters that will fundamentally affect civic life in Pennsylvania.
The high court deserves credit for giving us that opportunity via PCN — Pennsylvania’s version of C-Span. The public interest cable network does a professional, sober job of bringing such doings of government to political junkies statewide. It was a natural choice to televise the proceedings.
In fact, the high court deserves credit for its overall trend toward openness. After years of refusing to allow cameras in the court, it is slowly dismantling its wall of separation from the public. The court allowed a previous session on the redistricting plan to be televised, and it has allowed broadcasting of selected other sessions.
Now it’s time to speed up the dismantling of that wall. In fact, remove it. Allow cameras in the courtroom for all high court proceedings — as well as proceedings in lower court (except, perhaps, in cases where there are good reasons not to allow cameras).
Likewise, the high court should allow journalists to report from the courtroom using social media such as Twitter.
A high court rules committee recently stated that such reporting is akin to broadcasting and thus not allowed in courtrooms. Nonetheless, some judges are allowing the practice. That includes York County President gudge Stephen Linebaugh.
But other judges in other jurisdictions do not allow such instantaneous reporting. It was not allowed in the trial of former Democratic state oep. Stephen Stetler for public corruption. It was not allowed in the Sandusky case — though the judge WKHUH FOHDUOy wDnWHd WR find D wDy WR DOORw LW Dnd VWLOO DELdH Ey the high court’s wishes.
The point is, if our high court is going to allow cameras in the courtroom, it shouldn’t pick and choose which sessions to open. It should broadly allow the practice — with very limited exceptions. And it should open the courts to the new world of social media reporting.
The court is moving in the right direction with these PCN broadcasts, but it’s moving too slowly.
Journal Register News Service