Supreme Court ignores requests for video and audio access to health care ruling

Amanda Simmons | Newsgathering | News | June 28, 2012

Disregarding appeals made by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on behalf of nearly 50 news media organizations and the Senate Judiciary Committee, the U.S. Supreme Court did not allow live video or audio coverage in the courtroom today, when it announced its historic decision upholding President Obama’s health care overhaul law.

Chief Justice John Roberts made a rare exception this past spring when he authorized the same-day release of audio recordings and accompanying transcripts of oral arguments in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act case. The Supreme Court refuses to allow cameras or any other technology and typically releases audio recordings of its proceedings only on a weekly schedule.

But audio recordings of today’s session – the last of this term – will not be posted on the Court’s website until it reconvenes in October, according to its public information office.

“There is a strong interest nationwide in the Court’s opinion and any comments by a member of the Court that may accompany its announcement,” Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish, said in the June 14 letter to Roberts. “Such access would allow the public to be informed of the Court’s ruling in a timely manner.”

Roberts ignored requests for expanded public access to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the controversial health care legislation. As usual, reporters were only allowed to bring pen and paper into the courtroom.

Once the 193-page court document announcing the decision in the health care case was released shortly after 10 a.m. this morning, broadcast news producers – unable to air their reports instantaneously from inside the courthouse – raced outside to where their newscasters and camera crews waited. A number of on-air reporters could be seen rapidly leafing through the opinion and attempting to digest it moments before their live reports.

In a rush to quickly interpret the complex opinion, CNN and Fox initially misreported the ruling, incorrectly announcing that the court found the health care insurance mandate unconstitutional.

SCOTUSblog, a web site that closely follows the Court, ended up with at least 866,000 readers of its live coverage of the Court session. The website relies on many reporters, who periodically exit the courtroom, to provide immediate updates. After journalists exit the courtroom’s press gallery, they are not allowed to reenter.

“Given the fundamental constitutional questions raised and the effects the decision will have, the Court should be aware of the great interest Americans have in the outcome of this case,” Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who respectively serve as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in their unanswered letter to the Supreme Court.

Related Reporters Committee resources:

· News: Media groups develop ways to provide timely information about health care arguments