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Justice Kagan Talks Cameras in the Supreme Court, Collegiality

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Chief Justice John Roberts may scoff at the thought of allowing cameras in the courtroom, but Justice Elena Kagan, the newest addition to the bench, thinks it would lead to greater confidence in the Court.

Asked about allowing cameras in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Justice Kagan said, "I think it's a good idea ... If everybody could see this it would make them feel so good about this branch of government and how it operates," reports the Aspen Daily News.

Which other justices have weighed in on the issue?

Undaunted by former Justice David Souter’s famous “the day you see a camera come into our courtroom, it’s going to roll over my dead body” comment, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito, and Stephen Breyer have all supported cameras in the courts at the circuit level. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia oppose the idea. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has not taken a side.

Perhaps cameras in the Supreme Court would also shed light on the unexpected friendships within the Court.

Reflecting on her first year on the Court, Justice Kagan noted that her greatest surprise in joining The Nine was discovering the warmth and collegiality among the justices.

Indeed, the bench does make for unlikely bonds. Justices Ginsburg and Scalia have celebrated New Year’s Eve together for over twenty years. Justice Thomas has not spoken during oral arguments in the Court for five years, but he can often be spotted whispering with ideological opposite Justice Breyer.

Justice Kagan may have a hard time convincing her colleagues of the wisdom of cameras in the Supreme Court, but it’s not a new challenge. Kagan, who argued before the Court as Solicitor General before being appointed to the bench, joked that in her former position, her job was “to try to figure out how to persuade nine Supreme Court justices to take a particular position. And now my job is to figure out how to persuade eight Supreme Court justices,” reports the AP.

Her experience as Solicitor General may have a drawback during the 2011 Session should the Court decide to hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act. While Justice Kagan refused to say whether she would recuse herself if the issue comes before the Court, she recused herself 28 times in the last year because she had previously argued on behalf of the government in cases that reached the Supreme Court.

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