NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · WASHINGTON, D.C. · Broadcasting · Sep. 28, 2005
Bill calls for U.S. Supreme Court proceedings to be televised
Sep. 28, 2005 · If Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has his way, Americans could watch U.S. Supreme Court proceedings on television.
Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill Monday that would require the U.S. Supreme Court to allow arguments to be televised. During recent nomination hearings for John Roberts, the chief justice nominee said he had not decided whether cameras should be allowed in the courtroom, prompting Specter to move ahead with the bill.
“Because the Supreme Court of the United States holds power to decide cutting-edge questions on public policy, thereby effectively becoming a virtual ‘super legislature,’ the public has a right to know what the Supreme Court is doing,” Specter said on the Senate floor Monday. “And that right would be substantially enhanced by televising the oral arguments of the Court so that the public can see and hear the issues presented to the Court.”
Specter’s bill has at least one opponent on the high court. In 1996, Justice David Souter said, “I can tell you the day you see a camera come into our courtroom, it’s going to roll over my dead body.”
Specter’s bill would deny access to broadcast media with cameras only if the majority in a particular case decided cameras would violate due process.
Co-sponsoring the bill are five fellow Judiciary Committee members: Sens. John Cornyn (R- Texas), Russell Feingold (D- Wis.), Chuck Grassley (R- Iowa), Patrick Leahy (D- Vt.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Sen. George Allen (R- Va.) also co-sponsored the bill.
Grassley and Schumer proposed similar legislation in the past that would have permitted federal trials to be televised. Cameras are barred from federal courtrooms.