The debate on whether the Supreme Court should allow cameras during oral arguments is heating up with new hearings on capitol hill. SCOTUSblog ran a story today on the issue (and was there personally to speak in favor). The issue raises several interesting questions on whether there should be cameras and who gets to say whether or not there will be cameras.
I think most of the concerns regarding cameras in courts should be eliminated at the appellate level or higher. Critics of cameras in courts usually point to privacy concerns. Cameras may intimidate witnesses and defendants are being brought there against their will. However, at the appellate level there are no witnesses and the issues involved are typically more legal issues rather than embarrassing factual issues. Thus, I think that there should be no privacy concerns about cameras in appellate level or higher courts.
The other issue is who gets to decide whether there will be cameras. As the SCOTUSblog post points out, there exists a tension between the right of courts to govern themselves under a separation of powers and the ability of congress to control the other branches through the power of the purse strings. I would likely side with the parties that feel that congress would not have the power to force cameras. Cameras seem to me to be an administrative issue that is under the purview of the agency. When looking at the established case law on administrative agencies, it seems like congress can set priorities but it is up to the agency to determine how best to implement (or not implement) a funding objective. So, it would be entirely within their rights for congress to provide funding for the Supreme Court to televise its hearings and the Supreme Court simply failing to do so.