With their lifelong tenure, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court go about their business in a circumspect way as they serve an in- stitution which has its professional focus firmly on the past. Although they seem not entirely immune to the winds of public opinion, the justices are at once the most public of figures and yet the most secretive — not even allowing cameras when oral arguments are heard before them.
That is a continuing sore point in a modern American society that increasingly values transparency. As it happens, a group called the Coalition for Court Transparency — an alliance of media and legal organizations — has launched a TV ad campaign calling on the justices to allow cameras in their exalted courtroom. The ads, which started Feb. 18, are slated to run through March 10 in the Washington, D.C., market on CNBC, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.
At first glance, a small tradition-steeped group seeking to retain its aloofness does not seem an ideal target for a TV ad campaign. Do the justices even watch TV? Maybe, maybe not. But ordinary Americans — who have the greatest interest in the court and deserve to easily see its workings — do watch. Maybe the ads can whip up the wind of enough public opinion that even the most closeted justice will notice.