Part of a U.S. Supreme Court argument was captured on video for what may be the first time, with a secretly recorded segment showing a courtroom demonstration that led to an arrest this week.
A video posted on YouTube shows a spectator, later identified as Kai Newkirk, standing to speak in protest of the court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling during an unrelated case involving patent infringement on Feb. 26. Citizens United allowed unlimited corporate election spending.
The high court doesn’t permit any recording devices other than its own audio equipment. Spectators and reporters must pass through a metal detector before entering the courtroom. Even still cameras are banned, although at least two photographs of the court in session were surreptitiously taken in the 1930s.
In an interview on HuffPost Live, Newkirk said he and his colleagues “got a couple of hidden cameras in with us.” He wouldn’t describe how the cameras passed through security, saying, “we just walked in like everybody else.”
Newkirk was charged with violating a federal law that bars outbursts in the high court, and he said in the interview that he pleaded not guilty. After his arrest, the court identified him as Noah Newkirk of Los Angeles. He is affiliated with 99Rise, a group that objects to the role of money in politics.
Although Supreme Court rules bar electronic devices in the courtroom, federal law doesn’t make it a crime to record the proceedings.
Kathy Arberg, the Supreme Court’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mail yesterday that court officials “are in the process of reviewing the video and our courtroom screening procedures.”
The two-minute video is blurry and doesn’t clearly capture any of the words coming from the justices or lawyers. The first part purports to show an earlier Supreme Court session, an Oct. 8 argument in a campaign-finance case testing the overall federal limits on the amount donors can give to candidates and parties. A second video shows what may be a longer portion of the Oct. 8 argument.
In his protest, Newkirk said “money is not speech, corporations are not people and our democracy should not be for sale to the highest bidder” and called on the court to overturn Citizens United. He was then surrounded by the police officers whose job is to ensure order during Supreme Court sessions.
The incident marked the first time anyone has been charged with disrupting a Supreme Court session since 2006, when a protester began yelling about Jesus Christ during an argument in an abortion case.