Pennsylvania High Court Opens Its Doors for Cameras

By: - September 14, 2011 12:00 am

Mixing the old and the new, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court convened at Philadelphia’s historic Old City Hall on Tuesday (September 13) to do its business before television cameras for the first time.

The court, the oldest high court in the nation, recently announced that it would allow its proceedings to be taped and aired on public television, and Tuesday’s session – in which it heard oral arguments in six civil appeals – was held in the special Philadelphia venue to commemorate the occasion, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports .

Between 1791 and 1800, Old City Hall was the home of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court also held meetings there between 1790 and 1802, The Inquirer notes.  “It’s really interesting to be in a courtroom that we actually sat in 209 years ago,” Chief Justice Ronald Castille said.

Adding a touch of humor, Castille acknowledged that videotaped court sessions might not be the most entertaining television for many people. He recommended that viewers sit down with “a strong cup of coffee” to get through the arguments.

While Pennsylvania’s high court may have pleased open-government advocates by opening its doors to the cameras, the U.S. Supreme Court is another story. It does not allow cameras of any type into its chambers, and a movement to change that has repeatedly run into opposition from some of the justices.

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