The annual House hearing called to consider the Supreme Court's budget request began with its usual rituals this morning. Members of Congress and members of the Court -- Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer this time around -- praised the occasion as a historic meeting of two branches of government. "A rare opportunity" for the legislature and the judiciary to interact and exchange views, said appropriations subcommittee chair Rep. Jose Serrano, (D-N.Y.) "We are honored," replied Justice Thomas.
The hearing proceeded in the same vein for a while, full of blandishments and collegiality. But then a Texas congressman decided to test just how well the justices were listening and whether they would take his heartfelt message to heart -- a strong plea to the Court to ramp up its transparency and public face. Other committee members proceeded to pile on, telling the Court that the momentum toward openness that the Internet has created is so strong that the Court would be wise not to resist it. By the end of it Breyer and Thomas could have been forgiven if they started to think they'd been hit by a coordinated attack from wild-eyed techies.