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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A comedy sketch with dogs portraying members of the U.S. Supreme Court - picture Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a Chihuahua - had scored more than two million YouTube views by Thursday, drawing attention to the high court's secretive ways via some cheap laughs.
Less than six minutes long, the skit produced by the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver program went viral on the web after HBO broadcast it on Sunday. Dressed in black robes and seated behind a dais, a bulldog plays Antonin Scalia; a poodle, Samuel Alito.
A duck and other dogs, gesturing with fake paws to actual audio footage of Supreme Court arguments, are cast as lawyers, while a hen pecks away at a court stenographer's keyboard.
It's rare for the public to tune into the long-running Washington debate about whether the court should let TV cameras record its proceedings, but nine goofy dogs are pushing the issue beyond its usual audience of media, court and Congress.
"What happens at the Supreme Court is way too important not to pay attention to," says Oliver, the British satirist who hosts the program, as he introduces the segment.
The nine Supreme Court justices, who are somewhat insulated from public criticism thanks to their lifetime tenures, have wide latitude to handle their business as they see fit.
Now-retired Justice David Souter told Congress in 1996 that "the day you see a camera come in our courtroom, it's going to roll over my dead body."
The court releases audio tapes of its proceedings weekly, but has never permitted cameras to record the justices at work.
Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said she was not aware whether any of the justices have seen the comedy clip.
Peter Martin, a professor emeritus at Cornell University Law School, said the court's TV blackout is drawing more attention lately in part because young people are more used to consuming news via video. "The pressure will get through," he said.
The video can be watched here: here