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Information Will Be Free: Media, Groups Get Around Supreme Court's Rules

Cameras aren't allowed. There are no broadcasts. No one's supposed to leave the courtroom and then come back in.

As we've said, the U.S. Supreme Court isn't very interested in having its proceedings covered "live" in any way shape or form.

But for this week's three days' worth of hearings about the constitutionality of health care overhaul legislation, several news organizations and at least one interest group (briefly) have found ways to get word out about what's happening inside the courtroom with almost live blogging and tweeting.

Most bold, perhaps, was the Alliance Defense Fund, which opposes what it views as President Obama's "leftist agenda." It started posting updates about this morning's session on its Twitter page during the oral arguments. An example:

"Justice Scalia: What is left? If Congress can do this...what can't it? #ObamaCare #SCOTUS"

According to The New York Times' The Lede blog, "a spokeswoman at the court, Kathy Arberg, said the court ... discovered [the tweets were] coming from a lawyer for the group in the lawyers' lounge, an overflow room reserved for lawyers accredited to argue cases before the court."

There, people in the room could hear the oral argument. But they were supposed to observe the same restrictions as anyone in the courtroom itself — no electronic devices; note-taking only.

A U.S. marshal asked the lawyer to cease and desist, the Lede says. It appears that the tweeting stopped.

Meanwhile:

-- The Wall Street Journal — as it did on Monday — had reporters who were inside the courtroom come out, starting about 45 minutes after the session began, to post updates. So its updates, while written with the tone and sensibility of a live blog, were a bit behind the action.

-- SCOTUSBlog's Tom Goldstein and Amy Howe stepped out of the building to each provide audio updates about the action while the hearing was still underway. In one, about three-quarters of the way through the session, Goldstein says "the individual mandate is in trouble, significant trouble, [though] it's too early to tell whether it will be struck down."

-- USA Today had reporter Brad Heath step out to file an update after the first hour was over. "The Supreme Court's conservative justices seemed sharply critical on Tuesday morning of the requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance, the constitutional question at the center of President Obama's health care overhaul," he reported.

-- The Associated Press reported at 11:20 a.m. ET (a little more than halfway through today's session) that "conservative justices are sharply questioning whether the government can force Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty."

For coverage of the health care cases, see our friends at the Shots blog. And NPR's coverage, including reports from Morning Edition and All Things Considered, is packaged here.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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