Sotomayor wavers on cameras in the Supreme Court

Holly Bailey
National Correspondent
The Ticket

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor made big news during her confirmation hearings four years ago when she signaled she would be a strong proponent of allowing cameras into the high court’s proceedings.

But has she had a change of heart?

According to New York Magazine’s Jordan Teicher, Sotomayor seemed far more hesitant when asked about the issue during a talk at the 92Y in New York on Tuesday night, the latest stop on a tour to promote her recently released memoir:

“There's no other public official who is required by the nature of their work to completely explain to the public the basis of their decision," she said, when asked about the hotly debated issue by moderator Thane Rosenbaum. "Every Supreme Court decision is rendered with a majority opinion that goes carefully through the analysis of the case and why the end result was reached. Everyone fully explains their views. Looking at oral argument is not going to give you that explanation. Oral argument is the forum in which the judge plays devil's advocate with lawyers."

She added: “The process could be more misleading than helpful. It's like reading tea leaves. I think if people analyzed it, it is true that in almost every argument you can find a hint of what every judge would rule. But most justices are actually probing all the arguments."

That’s a notable shift from her comments during her 2009 confirmation hearing, when Sotomayor bluntly told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that she had no problem with cameras in the courtroom and would try to persuade fellow justices to adopt her point of view.

"I have had positive experiences with cameras," Sotomayor had said. "When I have been asked to join experiments of using cameras in the courtroom, I have participated. I have volunteered."

But while polls have shown a majority of the public supports cameras in the Supreme Court, Sotomayor's fellow justices have long been wary of the prospect. She's not, however, the first to be supportive of the idea only to change her mind later.

According to C-SPAN, Justice Samuel Alito also spoke positively about cameras in the Supreme Court, until he was in his confirmation hearings. Before the Senate, he took a lighter tone in deflecting questions about the issue.

"If our arguments were on television, we'd face some very stiff competition because there is already a surfeit of programming for court aficionados,” Alito joked before the Senate.