The legal profession can -- and should-- help to instruct the general public about this country's all-important institutions.
Multiple forces in modern life work to detract from Americans' ability to understand, navigate, and re-shape the country's civil institutions. These forces include, to name a few names: declining emphasis on social studies in our schools, the shrinking capabilities of news organizations, and the prominence given to the brashest of headlines. A post-industrial society flooded with more "information," complexity, and interdependence than ever before," and fewer genuine aids for making sense of it all, make for a deadly combination.
Judges and lawyers have traditionally not viewed themselves as having a central role in public education about law and government. We thought that other elements of society had ownership of that task. But the diminished capacity of some of these elements (especially the incredible shrinking press), suggest that the profession must be more assertive on this front.
Courts and judges in particular are well suited for making a difference in civic education, standing as they do in the public mind as reasonably honest brokers of disputes and information. For that purpose, technology is our friend.
The role of cameras in American courtrooms is an easy case in point. The nation's judiciary banned cameras in the 1950's after a series of dreadful experiences in which court proceedings were disrupted by the equipment of the era and only the most dramatic trial moments made it to air. A plausible threat to due process with little concomitant reward.