Modernize high court

From an editorial in Monday’s Washington Post:

Chief Justice John Roberts has announced a long-overdue move to put court documents online. But he stopped well short of embracing other obvious improvements, such as live video or audio from the Supreme Court chamber. “The courts will always be prudent whenever it comes to embracing the ‘next big thing,’ ” he wrote.

Audio and video broadcasting is not the next big thing. It is a long-been thing, an indispensable tool for connecting the government with the people.

The justices consider cases of national importance and they do it with taxpayer money. Yet the court stands out in its refusal to ease access to the public proceedings it conducts.

Critics of putting cameras in courtrooms say that broadcasts would turn otherwise-staid legal proceedings into circuses. Yet the justices already keep lawyers under control, constantly cutting them off before they finish their sentences.

One way or another, there will be real-time discussion of major court cases. For the sake of the public’s understanding of the legal process and the integrity of public debate, the court should do all it can to ensure that discussion is well-informed.