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For advocates of cameras in the courtroom, it’s been a lousy month. First, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy laid into the Senate Judiciary Committee at a Valentine’s Day hearing, calling the idea an “insidious temptation” to talk in soundbites. But that was nothing compared with Florida Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin’s performance last week. Seidlin, who presided over the difficult question of what to do with the corpse of Anna Nicole Smith, weeped, sobbed, and confessed his feelings about his courtroom chamber (it’s “like my living room,” he said) to a stunned national, and no doubt international, TV audience. The controversy even filtered down to the “Today” show, where Meredith Vieira wondered out loud whether cameras “encourage this kind of behavior?” Says CourtTV anchor Jami Floyd: “My guess is that this guy grandstands even when the camera is not present. That’s his style. I don’t know if it matters as long as he reached the right results, which most people think he did — with the obvious exception of Virgie Arthur,” adds Floyd, referring to Smith’s mother. For years Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has introduced a bill to permit cameras in all federal courthouses. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) wants to mandate them only in the Supreme Court. In the end, suggests Bert Brandenburg of the Justice at Stake Campaign, which doesn’t take a formal position on the issue, it may be much ado over very little. “After a minute or two, people forget they’re on tape, and they just become themselves.”
T.R. Goldman can be contacted at [email protected].

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