Supreme Court justices all suffer from the same bout of inconsistency: they don’t want cameras in the courtroom to film oral arguments or opinion announcements, but each time one of them has a book to sell, they rush to as many news cameras as they can find (e.g., Justice Breyer’s recent “Late Show” appearance, below.)
This inconsistency is also apparent when it comes to their public appearances. The court’s press office does not publicize their talks at law schools or academic conferences, preferring to leave it up to the host institution to alert the media. (This is in contrast to elected officials who often do the opposite, refusing to allow their hosts to advise the press but doing it themselves.)
The justices are all intelligent, thoughtful jurists who, although we may not agree with all of their opinions, have interesting musings and anecdotes about the law that would be instructive to generations of citizens interested in learning more about the inner workings of our democracy. Yet time and again, not only are their appearances not publicized in an obvious manner, the nine refuse to allow cameras to film them giving talks.
We believe that if the justices allowed the American public to see them in action – whether during a hearing or a “public” appearance –our faith in the institution would be revived, and we’d learn something along the way.
As organizations look to book the justices in the coming months, they should avoid retreating to their ideological corners and instead invite a justice from the other side. And the justices themselves should be more open to these types of invitations.