The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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October 28, 2013

At Supreme Court, tradition trumps technology, and transparency


And the court's newest justices have fallen into line. Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan expressed enthusiasm for cameras in the courtroom during confirmation hearings. Both have now had a change of heart.

The panelists had answers for all. Pete Williams of NBC noted that the "snippets" Scalia fears are called "quotations" when used in newspaper stories. That practice has been around for a long time. What the justices really fear is not the evening news, Williams said, but late-night comedians.

Maureen O'Connor, chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, said grandstanding by lawyers is nonexistent during the televised hearings of her court. She remembered only one occasion when an advocate addressed "the audience" beyond the courtroom's walls. He was quickly whistled back into line with the comment that the only audience that mattered were the justices in front of him.

On the whole, it was a respectful bunch that was calling on the Supreme Court to change. Former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal, a Washington lawyer who now argues frequently before the court, called it a "temple for truth" and said he wouldn't presume to tell the justices what to do.

Ken Starr, another former solicitor general and judge who has argued before the court 36 times but is better known as President Bill Clinton's prosecutor, called the court "awe-inspiring." Now president of Baylor University, Starr compared the court to Congress and seemed to take a shot at Republican Ted Cruz, his home-state U.S. senator, who interrupted his recent not-quite-a-filibuster over defunding the health-care law to read his children watching at home a bedtime story.

The justices are "professionals doing very professional work — they're not sitting there reading 'Green Eggs and Ham,' " Starr said.

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