Reporters Committee disappointed in high court's rejection of camera access to health care arguments

Press Release | March 16, 2012
Reporters Committee disappointed in high court's rejection of camera access to health care arguments

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court today refused the news media’s request for camera coverage of upcoming arguments in the health care reform law cases.

The court will release same-day audio recordings of the arguments. “While we are pleased the court will allow the public to hear perhaps the most important oral arguments of the decade, it is disappointing it will not take advantage of communications technology that would allow the public to see and hear this important case, said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish.

“The millions of Americans affected by the proposed federal health care legislation should be able to observe and monitor the debate over this significant issue in real-time, as it is made before the highest court in the country,” she said. “Hopefully, the overwhelming public interest in these cases will lead the Court to recognize that greater transparency in its proceedings serves the public good and will allow public access to visual recordings of its arguments in the future.”

As it has done in several high-profile proceedings since the presidential election cases of 2000, the Court will provide near-contemporaneous access to audio recordings of arguments in the three cases addressing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The arguments are scheduled for the mornings of March 26 to 28 and the afternoon of March 28.

The recordings will be posted on the Court’s web site “as soon as the digital files are available for uploading” but no later than 2 p.m., according to a press release from the Court. As with all cases the Court hears, an unofficial transcript of the arguments will also be posted around that time. The audio recording and transcript of a session held on the afternoon of March 28 will be available online no later than 4 p.m., the press release said.

The Reporters Committee, joined by 46 news media organizations and other groups, wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts in November, pointing out that “the Court’s current policy of releasing audio recordings of arguments at the end of the week will not adequately satisfy [the] strong public interest in being timely informed of important developments in a matter of such overwhelming impact on such a widespread scale.”

About the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Founded in 1970, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to thousands of working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee conducts cutting-edge legal research, publishes handbooks and guides on media law issues, files frequent friend-of-the-court legal briefs and offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.