BS in Journalism
Ronald C. Den Otter
Democracy relies on an informed and engaged citizenry. Low knowledge of public policy debates makes it difficult for government to meaningfully reflect the will of the people or for citizens to engage in fruitful public discussions. The discussions we manage to have about law and politics too often resemble a hyper-partisan cable news show rather than an honest effort at a conversation. In addition, many studies have suggested that, on the whole, Americans are not as informed about the courts as one would hope. This is especially true of the United States Supreme Court, which benefits from the “myth” that it is an institution insulated from the beltway politics that surround it.
The purpose of this paper is to elaborate upon explanations of low public awareness of and engagement with the decisions of the United States Supreme Court. It identifies and explains the problems with existing outlets for public interaction with the Court as well as proposes the implementation of a hybrid of two existing public participation models, specifically citizens’ assemblies and consensus conferences, in order to more fully engage Americans with the decisions of the highest court.