By Kevin Fayle on August 12, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As everyone knows, these are historic days for the Supreme Court.  Sonia Sotomayor has become the first Latino justice on the Court and only its third woman, a fact noted by both Sotomayor and President Barack Obama during the new justice's visit to the White House today.

But are there other changes coming to the Court?  Some observers think that the circumstances of Sotomayor's swearing-in ceremony indicate an important shift in attitudes at One First Street.
Supreme Court oaths have received television coverage since Clarence Thomas was sworn in, but they've all taken place at the White House.  Sotomayor's swearing-in took place in the East Conference Room of the Supreme Court, and it was the first time that an oath at the Supreme Court was captured by TV cameras.

Now, if you happened to be watching the Sotomayor confirmation hearings (and if you managed to fight off their soporific effects), you might remember Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) asking Sotomayor about cameras at the Supreme Court.  Specter wants the Court to provide the public greater access to its inner workings by letting TV crews in to televise oral arguments.  Sotomayor participated in a pilot program to allow cameras in the courtroom while on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, but she declined to state an actual position on cameras at the Supreme Court - just like she did with pretty much ever other question.

Some commentators are wondering after the swearing-in ceremony if Sotomayor's arrival will break through the traditional aversion Supreme Court Justices have had towards TV cameras.  After all, Justice David Souter, whom Sotomayor is replacing, was the most vociferous opponent of TV cameras at the Supreme Court.  Maybe with his departure and Sotomayor's positive experience during the pilot program will sway the other justices towards accepting cameras?

Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor doesn't think that it's such a great idea, though.  In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, SDOC states that

there is an almost instantaneous recording of the arguments, and you can get the opinions immediately, so the court has gone a long way to provide immediate [information]. And still, even if they could [televise] the arguments, they are technical and complicated, and without simplifying and making it hands-on for the students it's not going to help their knowledge that much. So that doesn't solve the problem of educating young people in my opinion.
Once change that SDOC might want to see is a rotating venue for the Court.  O'Connor has been sitting on a lot of Circuit Courts these days, and she likes the fact that many Courts of Appeals change locations every now and again.

Televised Court proceedings and a shifting venue?  I see a reality show in the making: "Supreme Court Road Rules."
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