Gabe Roth thinks video cameras could fix the U.S. Supreme Court.
At least, that’s one of the prescriptions the founder and executive director of the non-partisan advocacy group Fix the Court offered Oct. 26 during his talk, “Modernizing the Federal Judiciary, One Court at a Time,” at the 2019 American Constitution Society Western Regional Convening at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
Given his journalistic background, it’s not surprising that improved media access tops the list of changes Roth, a former TV news producer, has advocated through the New York-based organization dedicated to increasing transparency and accountability in the federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court in particular.
Roth said the U.S. Supreme Court lags behind other federal and state courts in terms of video and audio access. The U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t allow cameras at all, and, while it does record audio, the court’s same-day transcripts are “riddled with errors,” he said, and the actual recordings are not released until the end of the week. For cases argued on Mondays or Tuesdays, that’s “20 different news cycles” too late, Roth said.
He said critics of the idea often argue C-SPAN’s coverage of Congress has led to lawmakers grandstanding and playing to the cameras, with little debate on the floor. But Roth said this is an apples-to-oranges comparison.
“To my knowledge, no one on the Supreme Court is going to be running for Senate or president, and [they don’t] need to say a cute little one-liner that gets them airtime,” he said.