Televising Oral Arguments

While I was in Seattle, I was flipping through the channels and came across a broadcast ofTVW Washington Public Affairs an oral argument before the Washington State Supreme Court. The case was not one that I found particularly interesting: it dealt with the determination of what costs can be included in a restitution order. However, I found the the whole idea fascinating.

Not only are the Washington Supreme Court oral arguments televised on Washington State’s Public Affairs Network, but they are also archived on the internet. In fact, they have audio only arguments back through 1996 and video and audio copies since at least 2004. The argument that I watched can be found here.

I think this is a great public service. What a great way to make the legal system at least partially accessible to the public. Plus, by concentrating only on the oral arguments in the supreme court, you never have any concerns about witnesses or jurors being shown on television. The viewers see only the attorneys making an oral argument.

After watching this, two questions came to mind:

  1. How many other states are doing this?
  2. Why isn’t Illinois doing this?

I am constantly frustrated about how far behind that Illinois lags in moving forward in technology areas. The state of electronic filing in this state is absolutely abysmal. Further it appears as though any possibility of electronic filing is headed toward a hopelessly convoluted system where every county has their own version and own system.

I don’t expect the Supreme Court to fix the electronic filing situation overnight. However, allow its oral argument to be televised and archived on the internet is a great step forward that Illinois and other state could take.

6 thoughts on “Televising Oral Arguments

  1. There are 25 states that currently webcast appellate level oral arguments + 3 Federal Courts (7,9 USCA & USSCT).

    Do you think there re other values to these webcasts besides the public service benefits?

  2. David I think that these podcasts certainly benefit practitioners, especially those who do not practice often before a particular court.

    I think that there also benefits for students, both law students and otherwise, to allow them to see how an appellate court works. We see lots of examples on television about how a trial court works. However, most people have no understanding about what an appellate court actually does.

    Also, just from a pragmatic point of view, I believe that, as a nation, we are best served when the government is as transparent and open as is possible.

Comments are closed.