- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito made a case against televising arguments before the high court, telling a campus audience that cameras would spin off sound bites distorting what happened. And he used the historic arguments over the federal health care law as an example.

The first time the high court took up the case, the lawyer defending the health care overhaul had a “bad minute” when he couldn’t find his voice, Alito told a University of Kentucky audience Thursday night. After the brief lull, the lawyer went on with his presentation.

“He made a good argument,” Alito said. “I disagreed with him but he ultimately made a good argument.”

Not long after the hearing, some opponents of the health care law used the lawyer’s snippet of silence as a way to attack the overhaul, Alito noted.

“That’s the kind of thing that would happen - sound bites that really distort what happens during the oral argument,” he said.



Alito said the court’s work during oral arguments is already transparent. Besides releasing an audio tape, the court issues a transcript “that shows every word that was uttered and even has a little line if anybody laughs.”

“So the only thing that the public does not see is the face of the justice or the face of the lawyer arguing the case, with their lips moving,” he said. “I don’t know how much that adds to the experience.”

Alito joked that if C-SPAN covered the court, “we would have the opportunity to be just as popular as Congress.” He also said the arguments wouldn’t make for riveting TV. Alito said he spends much of his time looking at his iPad while keeping up with the arguments.

Alito, who took his seat on the Supreme Court after being nominated by President George W. Bush, offered his audience a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life as a justice. Alito said the justices are able to keep their legal disagreements separate from their personal relationships.

“In all my time on the court, our legal disagreements, which are sometimes very profound and involve things that we think are really important for the country and for the Constitution, we have not allowed that to spill over into personal animosity,” he said.

Alito said the court’s breaks from hearing cases are important for the justices.

“It is the benefit for us to get out of Washington and get away from our regular routines so we are not completely in a bubble, cut off from the rest of society,” he said.

Alito spoke to an audience that included law students, faculty, alumni and others.

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