The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held oral arguments in the Supreme Court Chamber in Old City Hall on Tuesday, September 13. It was the first time the High Court held session there in two hundred years, according to a statement from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC). It is also the first time a proceeding will be taped for later television broadcast by PCN. Earlier, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reached an agreement with Pennsylvania Cable News (PCN) to videotape oral arguments starting with the September 13 session. The coverage is gavel-to-gavel but not live, according to a spokesperson for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC).
“The Court wants to preserve the right to block arguments depending on their nature but at the same time the Chief Justice [Ron Castille] wanted to make sure that with gavel-to-gavel coverage viewers get a sense of the entire proceeding,” said Amy Kelchner, a spokesperson for the courts.
Televising court proceedings is nothing new in Pennsylvania. The Superior Court has allowed television cameras since 1999, and the Commonwealth Court since 2004. Kelchner said that the High Court has been considering allowing cameras for years.
“There was some resistance years ago, but that kept lessening over time,” Kelchner said.
The Supreme Court holds six sessions of oral arguments a year, each lasting several days. The Court convenes in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia.
“Since the beginning of the Commonwealth it has been a court that has travelled to the people,” Kelchner said. “Televising oral arguments is in keeping with that tradition.