It is 2014, and much of the planet is becoming technologically accessible online.
With respect to the U.S. federal government's daily operations, the Library of Congress' card catalog is available online, Congress' floor debates and Committee hearings are broadcast 24/7/365 on C-SPAN and online, the White House has an active website and even Pope Francis has a fully interactive website and Twitter account.
Yet, one branch of the U.S. federal government has crept more slowly into the 21st Century than others.
After 200 years of regular sessions, the routine oral arguments of attorneys before the United States Supreme Court remain a cloistered, closed-door affair, for the most part.
Audio recordings of all oral arguments heard by the Supreme Court are available to the public at the end of each argument week and are posted online.
However, all other recording devices are strictly forbidden by Court rules. This issue made headlines recently, when a rare event occurred--a public protest inside the U.S. Supreme Court, recorded by a visitor armed with a hidden camera phone.
The unruly visitor who demonstrated was arrested, but the individual who recorded the session surreptitiously cannot be prosecuted, as the Court's rules do not carry the force of law.
Indeed, if put to a vote before Congress, it is not clear that the Court's preference for such closed door access would be affirmed by both Houses, or signed by the President.
Indeed, fourteen trial courts have been selected for a "pilot study" to evaluate the merits of television cameras in courtrooms, and some of the more technologically-savvy Courts of Appeal (such as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California) broadcasts their oral arguments online the day after they are held.
The Coalition for Court Transparency is a group of public interest and media organizations demanding open access to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Their compelling argument is that the Supreme Court's decisions affect the lives of Americans everywhere, and that a large majority of the citizenry believe the oral arguments should be televised. (Their video clip is embedded below).
Perhaps it is time for the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its rules and put the matter to a Congressional vote.