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:
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
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
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.
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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
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
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)
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