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106 Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions 1 (2007)

handle is hein.journals/mlro106 and id is 1 raw text is: 











           GEE WHIZ, THE SKY IS FALLING!

                 The Honorable Boyce F. Martin, Jr. * t


    I am reminded of Chicken Little's famous mantra as I listen to some
Supreme Court Justices' reactions to the prospect of televising oral argu-
ments. Their fears-such as Justice Kennedy's warning that allowing
cameras in the courtroom may change the Court's dynamics-are, in my
opinion, overblown. And some comments, most notably Justice Souter's
famous exclamation in a 1996 House subcommittee hearing that the day
you see a camera come into our courtroom, it's going to roll over my dead
body, make it sound as if the Justices have forgotten that our nation's court
system belongs to the public, not merely the nine Justices who sit atop it. I
write this essay in order to give my own perspective. Having served as a
judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for nearly twenty-eight years, I
believe that I am in a unique position to understand the concerns raised by
televising oral arguments. I can make this guarantee-televising the Su-
preme Court's oral arguments will not produce the disastrous results
predicted by some frightened Justices; rather, it will yield positive results.
Most notably, it will increase the public's knowledge of the appellate proc-
ess.
    Recent studies have revealed disturbing data about our country's under-
standing of how its government works. A survey of 1213 adults conducted
by Zogby International last year showed that only 42% could name the three
branches of the federal government. Moreover, while 77% of those surveyed
could identify two of Snow White's seven dwarfs, only 24% could name
two current Supreme Court Justices. Recognizing this discrepancy, I am
baffled that we have not done more to exploit visual media as a way of edu-
cating the public about our system of government. We are a visual society.
Americans, and particularly young Americans, turn to television and the
Internet as their main sources of news. I believe that the importance of in-
creasing public awareness trumps many of the concerns expressed by the
Justices when they consider allowing cameras in the Court.
    One of these concerns, as Justice Kennedy has recognized, is the
soundbite problem. He believes that televising oral arguments will give
the Justices the insidious temptation to speak in short, catchy soundbites
that can be easily relayed to a general audience-perhaps this is because
most television channels, save for a few such as C-SPAN, will not devote pre-
cious airtime to televising an oral argument in its entirety. While Justice
Kennedy's fear of grandstanding is understandable, I believe it is exaggerated.


     •  Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
     t  Suggested citation: Boyce E Martin, Jr., Gee Whiz, the Sky Is Falling!, 106 MICH. L. REv.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS 1 (2007), http://www.iichiganlawreview.org/firstimpressions/voll06/martin.pdf.

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