- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2017

As confirmation hearings begin Monday for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a poll finds that most Americans think the highest court in the land acts in a partisan manner, not trying to engage in a “serious” interpretation of the Constitution.

“Thinking about recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, a nearly two-third majority (62%) say they believe that ‘Supreme Court justices are split on political grounds like Congress,’” public affairs channel C-SPAN wrote in a Friday news release. “By comparison, just over a third (38%) say they believe the Supreme Court ‘acts in a serious and constitutionally sound manner.’”

Robert Green, a principal at PSB Research, the Washington firm that conducted the survey, found the results to be an argument for televising the tribunal’s oral arguments.

“The high court’s decision to remain literally out of sight has hurt rather than helped their reputation and the legitimacy of many of their most controversial decisions,” Mr. Green said.

“The absence of TV cameras inside the Supreme Court for oral arguments has allowed others to define the court. Cameras would provide a counterbalance to what voters are constantly hearing about the judiciary from presidents, Congress and the media,” he argued.

The Supreme Court does release audio recordings of its oral arguments on its website at the “end of each argument week.” Transcripts of the oral arguments, however, are made available on the website on the same day.

The court also welcomes members of the general public to observe all or part of its proceedings in person on a first-come, first-seated basis.

For all their perceived deep-seated division, Supreme Court justices have long spoken with one voice in opposition to televising proceedings, fearing the injection of showmanship in what should be matter-of-fact hearings centered on oft-complicated legal questions.

Although media coverage of the court tends to focus on the most controversial cases that often end up closely divided, the majority of decisions have been either unanimous or have just one or two dissents.

As Law360.com reported, for the October 2015 term that concluded in June 2016, 39 of the 81 cases heard by the high court were decided unanimously and an additional 10 cases had just one dissenter.

Three years ago, in a term marked with contentious issues, only 14 percent of rulings were 5-4 calls, and a whopping two-thirds were unanimous.

• Ken Shepherd can be reached at kshepherd@washingtontimes.com.

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