For three days beginning March 26, the U.S. Supreme Court will set aside an extraordinary 51/2 hours for arguments on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care law. Court watchers point out that this is the most time devoted to a single case since the 1960s, and a signal of the importance the court assigns to the case.

And yet Americans will not be able to watch the give and take of history in the making. They will be barred from witnessing hearings that could influence how justices define the very scope of federal power.

Justice Stephen Breyer once worried, for example, that “public trust” in the court could be undermined, while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg claimed that gavel-to-gavel coverage “cannot be successfully edited by someone outside the judicial house.”

Chief Justice John Roberts has said he fears potential “grandstanding,” and Justice Anthony Kennedy once suggested cameras “would change our collegial dynamic.”

It’s approaching unanimity — or would be, anyway, if we only had a few more takers among the all-important nine on the court itself.

— The Denver Post, Dec. 25

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