Justices: Cameras would censor Supreme Court

Supreme Court Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy (L) and Stephen Breyer await the start of a hearing on Capitol Hill March 14, 2013 in Washington, DC. Kennedy and Breyer testified before the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee during an oversight hearing on the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Two Supreme Court justices today expressed concern that if cameras were present during oral arguments in Supreme Court cases, the justices may feel pressured to edit what they say.

"You think it won't affect you, your questioning," Justice Stephen Breyer said today during a hearing of a House Appropriations Committee subpanel. However, he continued, "the first time you see on prime time television somebody taking a picture of you and really using it in a way that you think is completely unfair... in order to caricature [your position]... the first time you see that, you will watch a lot more carefully what you say."

Justice Anthony Kennedy agreed, adding that he wouldn't want that "insidious dynamic" in the courtroom.

The justices were on Capitol Hill today to testify before the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee about their annual budget. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., asked the justices about cameras in the courtroom, which has been a matter of debate for years.

"I've seen a lot of theatrics in courtrooms," Quigley said in response to the justices' concerns. However, he added, "In all my life I can't imagine the Supreme Court acting in a way other than which they normally would," whether or not there were cameras present.

Organizations like C-SPAN and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have long said cameras in the courtroom would add more transparency to the democratic process. Congress has pressed the court on the issue as well -- Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, first introduced legislation that would allow cameras in the Supreme Court in 1999. After that, the Supreme Court began releasing audio, after the fact, of oral arguments.

Breyer said today he would have to consider more fact-based evidence on the issue, such as studies on the impact of cameras in the courtroom in California, or its role in shaping public opinion. "I know that's a bore, but that's where I am at the moment," he said.

However, that fact-based evidence has long existed, Bruce Collins, corporate vice president and general counsel for C-SPAN, pointed out to CBSNews.com