SCOTUS Says the Prop 8 Trial Won’t be YouTubed


The U.S. Supreme Court refused to lift a temporary ban on broadcasting the Proposition 8 trial late Wednesday, saying the ban would stay in place until the court had time to consider an appeal brought by supporters of Proposition 8 who don’t want the trial televised.

According to long-time Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog, the divided 5-4 court criticized lower courts, in its 17-page decision. for attempting “to change its rules at the eleventh hour.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonya Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens dissented from the ruling.

The decision means that coverage of the trial will continue to be limited to tweets and news stories–as well as coverage like last night’s The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.  By refusing to lift their stay, the justices ruled that there should be no broadcasting of the trial until they had time to act on the appeals filed earlier this week.

The delay in making the order public raised a period of uncertainty for Supreme Court watchers and those following the case in San Francisco.  With the 4pm EST deadline passed and still no word from the court, there was some question about whether Judge Walker would announce the trial was being broadcast after the trial resumed after the lunch break.

While TV hasn’t been allowed and broadcasts haven’t been available, that doesn’t meant there has not been extensive coverage.  Some of the best tweeting of the trial has come from Dan Levine of ALM’s The Recorder in San Francisco at @FedCourtJunkie. There’s also been extensive coverage by Chris Geidner at the blog LawDork, and veteran journalists Karen Ocamb at LGBT POV and Lisa Keen at Keen News Service.

Opponents of broadcasting the trial alleged that the judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit failed to follow procedures in approving the broadcasts, which do not include live coverage by the networks. They also said that witnesses and counsel could face retribution and intimidation by same-sex marriage supporters. The court must rule on that challenge before the trial can be broadcast.

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