There are questions in life that invite legitimate debate – is the best “so bad it’s awesome movie” “Snakes on a Plane” or “Faceoff”? Is the best band of all time the Beatles or Rolling Stones? Are you a Magic Johnson fan or do you prefer Larry Bird? I get these.
But the question whether cameras should be allowed in federal courts is not one of those. The only answer is “of course.” There is no sensible debate on this. Federal courts – from the trial level up to the Supreme Court – decide cases that affect millions of citizens. They are presided over by life tenured, unelected judges. The system leads to a lack of accountability that makes the executive and legislative branches jealous.
And I am not criticizing the process that insulates federal judges from the whims of voters. Judges are called upon to make difficult decisions. And in upholding the constitution, they anger constituencies all the time. Imagine a federal judge in the Jim Crow south issuing a decision to protect black citizens from discrimination? If that judge were subject to being voted out of office, would that type of decision get made?
But with this awesome power should come some level of accountability. And the best way to insure that is to allow cameras in the courtroom to record the proceedings. It is the best way to offer an unbiased view of how this branch of our government goes about its business.
So, best wishes to Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on their effort to pass the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act. It is high time.