Artificial scarcity

I don’t understand this story (about long lines for seats to watch Supreme Court proceedings). Why don’t they just telecast it?

P.S. See comments below. Now I understand.

7 Responses to Artificial scarcity

  1. LFC April 16, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    Assuming the question is meant seriously, the answer is that the Supreme Court forbids any kind of camera in the courtroom. It does permit audio taping of oral arguments, which are typically released to the media on a delay of about a week or two (or something like that, if memory serves). Occasionally, if a case has attracted a lot of public interest and attention, the Court will release the tape of the argument on the same day.

    • Andrew Gelman April 16, 2013 at 11:00 pm #


      Yes, the question is meant seriously. By “they,” I was referring to the court, not to the TV networks. That is, conditional on the court forbidding cameras, I understand why the proceedings are not broadcast. My question was, why do they forbid cameras?

      Thinking about it, though, I can see the motivation, that there is a reasonable concern that, once there are cameras, the lawyers might start showboating, playing for the crowd, trying to get soundbites for CNN, etc. I guess I hadn’t really thought this all through until just now.

      So, sorry for the post! It all makes sense to me now.

      • LFC April 17, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

        @A. Gelman:
        The issue of whether to allow cameras in courts (some cts do, some don’t — no federal cts, I think, allow them, though I’m not positive) has been batted around for a long time by various people on both sides.

        My own guess is that I don’t think cameras wd have that much effect on how lawyers at the Supreme Court behave. It’s possible that cameras might occasionally have an effect esp. perhaps if the lawyer in question is nervous and/or inexperienced in Supreme Ct advocacy. But what’s really going on here, I think, is that the Court is a tradition-bound institution which simply doesn’t like the idea of cameras; the Justices, for one thing, maybe don’t want everyone to see how they behave on the bench….

        I would be interested in comments, though, from someone who knows more about this issue than I do.

        • Griff April 18, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

          I actually do think cameras could have a real effect on Supreme Court arguments — not on the lawyers, but on the judges. Scalia grandstands enough as it is; imagine if he had a potential TV audience of millions to play to.

  2. LFC April 16, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Maybe it’s my browser or something, but the comment doesn’t seem to show up on the refreshed page.

  3. Chris Kromphardt April 17, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Both the 2nd and the 9th federal circuit courts of appeal have televised oral arguments before. The 9th in particular maintains this web site of video-recorded proceedings: A number of federal district courts are taking part in a televising pilot program, as well.

    As for the justices, they seem to oppose televising because of the risk of an observer effect or having comments taken out of context as soundbites. C-SPAN lists some of the justice’s statements here:

  4. LFC April 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    In case the first one didn’t go through: thks.