Unauthorized video of U.S. Supreme Court protest posted online

WASHINGTON Thu Feb 27, 2014 11:40pm EST

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For the first time, video footage of U.S. Supreme Court proceedings has been recorded and posted online.

The Supreme Court has always barred any type of cameras, including news media, from recording proceedings.

The video shows a protester, later identified by the court as Noah Kai Newkirk, 33, of Los Angeles, California, who disrupted an oral argument on Wednesday.

The shaky, low-quality video, just over two minutes long, shows a brief disruption that occurred in the courtroom during an oral argument in a patent case. It also appears to show video taken at a separate oral argument, held last October 8 in a campaign-finance dispute, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, that has yet to be decided. (YouTube video: here)

On Wednesday, Newkirk stood up and spoke out against the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling from 2010 that cleared the way for increased independent corporate and union spending during federal elections. Newkirk can be partially seen and heard in the video footage, which appears to have been shot by someone he was with.

Newkirk is a member of a group called 99Rise, which says on its website, www.99rise.org, that its aim is to "get big money out of American politics."

Reached by phone on Thursday night, Newkirk confirmed that 99Rise had been able to smuggle at least one concealed camera into the courtroom. He declined to say who else was involved in the scheme and how it was carried out.

"I'm glad it's helping us to elevate the issue," he said in reference the media attention the group is now receiving. Newkirk, a long-time progressive activist, said 99Rise was formed by a small group of people in Los Angeles who were inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests prompted by concerns that corporations had too much influence on public life.

Police officers removed Newkirk from the courtroom on Wednesday after a brief scuffle. He faces a misdemeanor charge for violating a law that prohibits "loud threatening or abusive language" in the Supreme Court building.

Newkirk pleaded not guilty to the charge when he appeared in Superior Court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, according to court records. If convicted, he could face a fine of $5,000 and 60 days in jail.

Video cameras, along with any other electronic devices, are not allowed in the courtroom. Still cameras are also not allowed. Spectators are screened by police officers before they are allowed entry to the courtroom.

Although there has never been video recorded before, there are incidents of people taking still photographs. There were two such incidents in the 1930s, according to a 2012 article in Slate, an online magazine.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman said in an email on Thursday that she was aware of the video.

"Court officials are in the process of reviewing the video and our courtroom screening procedures," she said. Recording video violates the court's rules but is not a criminal offense.

(Additional reporting by Joan Biskupic; Editing by Howard Goller, Kevin Drawbaugh, Bernard Orr and Lisa Shumaker)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
tpvero wrote:
Land of the free?

Feb 28, 2014 5:14am EST  --  Report as abuse
jimcrist wrote:
How can politicians represent us, when they’re given millions to represent someone else? The reason that Congress is viewed favorably by less than 10% of Americans is because Congress is not working in the best interests of 99% of Americans. That’s the same reason everyone hates the government. Our political system is broken. Congress is spending 40-70% of it’s time raising money from a handful of billionaires and mega-millionaires, who’s interests do not align with average Americans. It’s a corrupt system of legalized bribery.

This is not a left or right thing. It’s a right and wrong thing. We need to restore our Constitution to what our Founding Fathers intended and bring real democracy back to America. The word ‘corporation’ does not appear in the Constitution because human beings have inalienable rights, not corporations. Corporations are supposed to have privileges, not inalienable rights. Corporations are key to our economic success, but they shouldn’t be dictating our energy policy or our healthcare policy. We the People are supposed to control our governmental institutions. What we have now is government for sale to the highest bidder.

Feb 28, 2014 12:22pm EST  --  Report as abuse
macguver1948 wrote:
This group hit the old Liberty Bell on the other side of the crack. We all should be speaking up loud and crystal clear against the betrayal by the Supreme Court with their Citizens United decision.

For those who do not know who started and financed Citizens United, and if you care about free and fair elections, you may feel the SCOTUS decision violates your sense of Americanism when you do find out. Citizens United was created to keep the secrets of those working through it. They do not what you to know who is buying our politicians. The SCOTUS did indeed betray us. So who do the elected officials really work for if we do not know who is paying for their campaigns and their loyalties?

If we do not fight this, legally and non-violently that is, we will be drowning in rotten Tea. The Koch Klan will be successful and We The People lose because we will not have anyone in politics working for us.

Mar 01, 2014 12:26am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus