I just finished listening to the audio feed of today’s Supreme Court arguments about gay marriage and California’s Proposition 8. I’m not enough of a legal mind to know which way the justices will rule, but since is the first SCOTUS case I’ve taken the time to listen to in its entirety (slightly over an hour), I was struck by how different the proceedings were than what I expected.
The justices jumped in and started asking questions before one of the attorneys had gotten the first sentence of his argument out of his mouth. From then on, it was almost nonstop, with all of them jumping in to interrupt (except Clarence Thomas, of course, who seems to have taken a vow of silence since he first joined The Court). The lawyers who were trying to make their cases for both sides — two of whom are former Solicitors General, the federal government’s representative at The Court — certainly knew to expect these interrogatories, but the constant questioning made it difficult for any of them to make their point at length, for there was always something else being tossed at them.
I thought of Professor Kingsfield in “The Paper Chase,” admonishing his students that they should never think they have reached the correct answer, because he would always have another question.
Much of what will go into The Court’s decision will come from the briefs that were submitted by the parties and the “friends of the court,” and the majority of the points raised during oral arguments were well above the heads of most of us. Still, I wish the justices would remove their longstanding ban on cameras in The Court. Let all Americans see how the supposed greatest legal minds in the country handle their business, instead of a select few dozen at a time, many of whom spent days sleeping outside the building waiting to reserve a seat inside.
In the past, some justices have complained that allowing the public to see these sessions via a live video feed might lead to grandstanding — but based on what I have heard, that horse left the barn a long time ago, with the justices in the saddle.