Supreme Court Blocks Video Coverage Of Prop 8 Trial

images5thumbnail1.thumbnail11On Monday morning, the Supreme Court entered a stay order halting the live video feed of the groundbreaking Proposition 8 trial to other Federal courthouses as well as the delayed release of video clips from the trial via YouTube. I indicated back then that the history and blinding self interest of the Supreme Court in not allowing the encroachment of video into Federal courts because of the abiding fear it will lead to video in their own hallowed and august courtrooms. God forbid the citizens of the country be able to see what their public servants are doing; and public servants is exactly what Supreme Court Justices, for all their self righteous bluster, are.

Today, in an opinion just released in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, those fears came true.

Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog summarizes the situation perfectly:

Splitting 5-4, the Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked any television broadcast to the general public of the San Francisco federal court challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage. The stay will remain in effect until the Court rules on a coming appeal challenging the TV order. The Court, chastizing the trial court for attempting “to change its rules at the eleventh hour,” issued an unsigned 17-page opinion. The ruling came out nearly 40 minutes after an earlier temporary order blocking TV had technically expired.

The Court gave the supporters of the Prop 8 ban two options to seek a final order against the television coverage: they could (as they have indicated they would) file a petition for review from the lower courts’ orders), or they could file a petition seeking what is called a “writ of mandamus” — that is, an order from a higher to a lower court to take, or not take, some action. The Court did not indicate whether it would grant review of either approach, although Wednesday’s order was a fairly strong hint that it would.

This spells the end of any hope of video coverage of the Prop 8 trial, whether it be live stream to other Federal courthouses or the delayed release of YouTube segments. It is curious that the Supreme Court is fine with a video feed to other locations in the same courthouse as the trial, but not to other secure Federal courthouses. Again, it must be assumed this is all about insuring that the objecting five pompous justices never have to have their demeanor and conduct seen by the citizens they serve. As I explained in the previous post, the Supreme Court, in Chandler v. Florida, has already admitted it is not about constitutional due process; therefore it is, whether admitted or not, about their vanity and elitism.

When the Supreme Court, in its opinion, says:

We are asked to stay the broadcast of a federal trial. We resolve that question withoiut expession any view on whether such trials shold be broadcast. We instead determine that the broadcast in this case should be stayed because it appears the courts below did not follow the appropriate procedures set forth in federal law before changing their rules to allow such broadcasting. Courts enforce the requirements of procedural regularity on others, and must follow those requirements ourselves.

it sure strikes me that the Court’s basis for finding the Local rule was violated, or inappropriately amended, is strained. At best. Others may differ, but for my money, this has everything to do with the inherent prejudices and fears of the majority Justices.

But we know who dissented, they had the guts to put their names on a written dissent. Justices Breyer, Stevens, Ginsburg and Sotomayor. From the well taken dissenting opinion:

The Court today issues an order that will prevent the transmission of proceedings in a nonjury civil case of great public interest to five other federal courthouses located in Seattle, Pasadena, Portland, San Francisco, and Brooklyn. The Court agrees that it can issue this extraordinary legal relief only if (1) there is a fair chance the District Court was wrong about the underlying legal question, (2) that legal question meets this Court’s certiorari standards, (3) refusal of the relief would work “irreparable harm,” (4) the balance of the equities (including, the Court should say, possible harm to the public interest) favors issuance, (5) the party’s right to the relief is “clear and undisputable,” and (6) the “question is of public importance” (or otherwise “peculiarly appropriate” for such action). See ante, at 6–7; Rostker v. Goldberg, 448 U. S., 1306, 1308 (1980) (Brennan, J., in chambers) (stay standard); Cheney v. United States Dist. Court for D. C., 542 U. S. 367, 380 (2004) (noting that mandamus is a “drastic and extraordinary remedy reserved for really extraordinary causes” (internal quotation marks omitted)). This case, in my view, does not satisfy a single one of these standards, let alone all of them. Consequently, I must dissent.

I dissent too; however, I think there are grounds that even the minority Justices are not admitting; i.e. the petulance of their majority colleagues.

  1. Peterr says:

    Shorter Anonymous Author: “No cameras, but don’t quote *me* on that. Just say ‘SCOTUS said so’ and let’s leave it at that.”

    IANAL, but I’ve never seen a per curiam opinion that had a signed dissent by four other justices. Generally they are issued for opinions/rulings/orders where there is overall consensus.

    Lawyers, want to help me out here?

  2. MadDog says:

    I’m guessing the real reason for the 5 no votes is the fear that a video will capture that these 5 are wearing nothing underneath their robes.

    I thank them mightily for saving the Western world from this unimaginable sight! /s

    • eCAHNomics says:

      I’m guessing the real reason for the 5 no votes is the fear that a video will capture that these 5 are wearing nothing underneath their robes between their ears.

      Suggested edit.

  3. Cynthia Kouril says:

    So you know what this decision means in practical terms?

    That Teddy and Marcy are THE go to team for Prop 8 coverage.

    FDL rules the courts, once again.

    gotta look at that bright shiny silver lining.

    ( I know, you thought I was going to say bright shiny….)

  4. ART45 says:


    As a lawyer, do you believe in jury trials? Do you believe in bench trials?

    I can see reasons to keep cameras out of a trial court.

    I see no reason to keep cameras out of appellate courts.

    • bmaz says:

      I believe in both, and do both. Do appellate work too. I would, in some regards, as soon not have cameras in trial courtrooms; but that is from the perspective as a participant there. The other side of the coin is that justice is supposed to be open and transparent for the public. In the long run, the latter prevails in my opinion.

      • nahant says:

        the latter prevails in my opinion.

        I sure hope so! The Right Wing judges don’t want to be seen on the job.. Thats all folks.. It would be like pulling back the Curtain of the Wizard!! We all would be shocked what a mockery the are making of our constitution and our rights as citizens. It is all about Corporate Citizens… they have the money dummy!! DahoH

        • bmaz says:

          Well, keep in mind Justice Souter said cameras would be in the Supreme Court over his dead body; Souter was not a right winger, so it is not exclusively that.

  5. jimjr says:

    From what I read on Teddy’s live blog of defendants’ cross examination of one of plaintiffs’ experts, the scotus may just be protecting the defendants from widespread TV embarrassment from exposing their weak arguments against gay marriage.

  6. jimjr says:

    (5) the party’s right to the relief is “clear and undisputable,”

    With a 5-4 vote, I would say the relief requested was obviously disputable.

  7. ratfood says:

    Since they are essentially ruling in favor of Prop 8 supporters on this issue with little legal justification, it does not bode well if the case eventually reaches SCOTUS.

    Not surprising, since we already know the inclinations of five SC justices but disappointing. It appears they are chomping at the bit to put those awful gay folks in their place.

    Of course nobody on the right complains about activist conservative judges.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      And of course, Soto is R.C. so she’ll probably vote against gay marriage. I’m actually surprised she voted in the dissent on televising the trial.

  8. naya says:

    The court does not like the idea of cameras in the courtroom, that’s all. I don’t know how any of the justices will vote when this comes to the supreme court but Kennedy has voted for gay rights. As for Sotomayor I don’t think her religion will play a role as other religious justices have gone against their faith. I remain optimistic.

    • laurastrand says:

      I agree that the Court is, has been, and will continue to be against cameras – and with reasons both good and not so good. The best argument I have heard against cameras is the distracting nature. If I were a plaintiff, in a bench trial, I’d be more inclined to an active participating judge, rather than one balancing the law and the need to appear “ready for close up.”

      The O.J trial immediately comes to mind as how not to do video coverage.

      In arguing against myself – Judge Vaughn Walker ROCKS! and the importance of the subject, and which palpably moves human rights forward, will be historically important and should therefore have a record beyond paper.

  9. quanto says:

    I never understood giving life tenure to a judge was a good thing. Given the politicization of the appointment of SCOTUS your just bound to get lemons. I guess the only remedy is to only appoint one after the age of 90.

  10. geraldo says:

    I think it’s terrible that people have to live in fear of physical violence if they expose their true feelings in public.

  11. freepatriot says:

    we know who dissented, they had the guts to put their names on a written dissent. Justices Breyer, Stevens, Ginsburg and Sotomayor. From the well taken dissenting opinion:

    the majority opinion didn’t have a name listed ???

    did it write itself ???

    or was it written by a coward ???

    My objections are not based upon the law, so I got no problem if my side lost an honest decision

    it would be better than winning thru cowardice