January 13th, 2010
05:42 PM ET
4 years ago

High court extends ban on videostream from California trial

High court extends ban on videostream from California trial .
High court extends ban on videostream from California trial .

Washington (CNN) - The Supreme Court has again indefinitely blocked plans to disseminate video of an important federal court case involving single-sex marriage in California.

The justices in an unsigned order Wednesday prevented any distribution of the live videostream outside the San Francisco courthouse where the case is being heard, and any real-time or delayed posting on the Internet.

In a trial that began Monday, a federal judge in San Francisco will decide whether the state's Proposition 8 banning single-sex marriage is
constitutional. California voters approved the measure in November 2008, prompting an appeal by several homosexual couples.

As part of a pilot program, the judge had agreed to allow video of the trial to be sent live to other rooms within the courthouse and to five other federal courthouses, and to be posted several hours later on the popular video site YouTube.com.


Opponents of single-sex marriage had asked the high court to intervene, claiming witness testimony could be affected if cameras were present. It is extremely rare for a federal trial to be televised to the broader public.

The high court's latest order allows distribution only to designated "overflow" rooms in the San Francisco courthouse, where people who want to view the trial but are unable to fit into the courtroom can watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television.

But a majority of Supreme Court justices concluded expanded broadcast should not permitted because, they wrote, "It appears the courts below did not follow the appropriate procedures set forth in federal law before changing their rules to allow such broadcasting."

There has been much internal debate in federal courts around the country about the televised experiment, with several judges and administrators privately expressing concern that it could eventually lead to the entire judiciary being televised, including the Supreme Court.

In dissent to the ruling, Justice Stephen Breyer and three liberal colleagues complained the public would be deprived of watching "a nonjury civil case of great public interest to five other federal courthouses located in Seattle (Washington), Pasadena (California), Portland (Oregon), San Francisco (California), and Brooklyn (in New York City)." He was supported by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, and Sonia Sotomayor.

Breyer said the high court traditionally has stayed out of what he called another court's administrative discretion on such matters, saying, "I believe this court should adhere to its institutional competence, its historical practice, and its governing precedent - all of which counsel against the issuance of this stay."

The case is Hollingsworth v. Perry (09A648).


Filed under: Supreme Court
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Annie, Atlanta

    The Supreme Court is prohibiting us from watching a judicial proceeding having to do with gay marriage, hours after the fact, and after the judge approved it. Is anyone else disturbed by this?

    January 13, 2010 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  2. Nick in IL

    Oh no, by all means, let's not have any sort of transparency or openness in this country. The citizens of this country are not in charge any longer. Money and power is!

    January 13, 2010 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  3. Tod

    Cameras should be allowed if the judge is ok with it. It would be a good learning experience for people to see how our justice system works.

    January 13, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  4. John, Brooklyn, NY

    It is clear that the Roberts Court is not interested in enhancing the transparency of the judicial process. How elitist!

    January 13, 2010 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  5. Marty, FL

    Regardless of one's side on this debate, Americans deserve to have transparency of the judicial positions being taken.

    What are the obstructionists afraid of hiding??

    January 13, 2010 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |