Televised Oral Arguments and Judicial Legitimacy: An Initial Assessment

Ryan C. Black, Timothy R. Johnson, Ryan J. Owens, Justin Wedeking

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


What happens to the perceived legitimacy of appellate courts when they allow cameras into their courtrooms? We implemented two experiments that exposed people to real video clips from two courts. In the first experiment we varied the modality (video or audio), contentiousness (neutral or contentious), and camera angle (static or dynamic) of exchanges between an attorney and judge and then measured people’s views toward judicial legitimacy. We found that static angles do not appear to influence legitimacy but using dynamic angles might have a limited effect. Watching a neutral exchange might increase judicial legitimacy—compared to listening to that exchange—but watching a contentious exchange might decrease it. In a second experiment we examined whether the presence of judicial symbols interacts with these effects. Evidence here is suggestive that these symbols could mitigate the negative effect of exposure to contentious content. Our results, though initial and limited in a number of ways, underscore both the complicated nature of cameras in the courtroom as well as the strong need for additional studies on a topic of great importance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPolitical Behavior
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • American Politics
  • Experiments
  • Judicial politics
  • Legitimacy


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