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Cameras at the Supreme Court: A Rhetorical Analysis

Lisa McElroy

Drexel University School of Law

November 23, 2011

Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law Research Paper No. 2011-W-02

For many years, the Supreme Court has resisted cameras in its marble palace, the temple on the hill. In studying the reasons that the Justices give for refusing cameras at the Supreme Court, it becomes apparent that their resistance is more about maintaining mystique than about defensible concerns, such as security or legitimacy. In fact, cameras at the Supreme Court would help to alter Americans’ perceptions of the institution as a removed sort of aristocracy to a view of the Court as an integral part of democracy. Privacy and secrecy do not preserve public confidence in the Court, but may actually diminish it. The public’s interest in seeing its government at work outweighs any interests the Justices may have in preserving the Court’s mystique.

This article conducts a rhetorical analysis of the Court’s story of majesty and disengagement from the public – one similar to that of the Oracle at Delphi – and suggests how cameras would transform that story to one in which the Justices are human and fallible but committed to the rule of law as a cornerstone of a constitutional democracy.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 67

Keywords: Supreme Court, United States Supreme Court, cameras, C-SPAN, Oracle at Delphi, Delphic, mythology, rhetoric, narrative, storytelling

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Date posted: November 25, 2011  

Suggested Citation

McElroy, Lisa, Cameras at the Supreme Court: A Rhetorical Analysis (November 23, 2011). Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law Research Paper No. 2011-W-02. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1963773 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1963773

Contact Information

Lisa McElroy (Contact Author)
Drexel University School of Law ( email )
3320 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.drexel.edu/law/lisa-mcelroy.asp
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