HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Chief Justice John Roberts said last week that the Supreme Court is not interested in televising its hearings, and might never be.
"All of the justices view themselves as trustees of an extremely valuable institution," Roberts told dozens of federal judges, attorneys and their family members at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa on July 13. "We're going to be very careful before we do anything that will have an adverse impact on that."
Roberts, a President Bush appointee who just finished his first term last month, told a conference of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that "We don't have oral arguments to show people, the public, how we function."
While states allow some camera coverage of court proceedings, cameras are forbidden in federal district courts. Federal appeals courts have varying policies, with the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit often permitting print and television cameras during hearings.
Resistance to television, however, has been stiffest at the Supreme Court, which releases audio tapes of its hearings.
In 1996, Justice David Souter told a congressional panel, "The day you see a camera come into our courtroom it's going to roll over my dead body."
During a 40-minute speech, Roberts pressed for an increase in judicial pay, a suggestion he also made during his first speech assessing the judiciary Jan. 1.
"We ought to pay them enough so that they can educate their children and have a reasonable enough lifestyle," Roberts said.
U.S. district court judges earn $162,500 annually, appeals court judges $175,000 and Supreme Court justices, $203,000.
Roberts, the youngest member of the court at 51, recalled the day a year earlier when the White House phoned to see if he wanted to interview for a job on the high court.
"As it turned out, I could," Roberts recalled to laughter from the audience of about 350.
In the term that began in October, the high court decided 69 cases, about half unanimously.
"I think that that is good," he said. "I do think it promotes the rule of law to have the Court speaking, as much as possible, with one voice."
Still, Roberts spoke little of his first term. He quipped: "All's well that ends."