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Reporters Committee Joins Coalition for Court Transparency; TV ads urge cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court

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The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has joined the Coalition for Court Transparency (CCT), a group of media…

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has joined the Coalition for Court Transparency (CCT), a group of media and legal organizations focused on urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow live video of oral arguments.

In conjunction with CCT’s announcement, comes the launch of a 30-second television ad titled “Everywhere,” that will run some 300 times in the Washington, D.C., market on cable news outlets including CNBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC through March 10. The ad can be viewed on the newly launched OpenSCOTUS.com website, where people can join a petition to Chief Justice John Roberts urging him to open the Court to camera coverage.

“When you think about the most widely followed cases of the last year, litigants hailed from California (Hollingsworth v. Perry), Oklahoma (Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius) and Alabama (Shelby Co. v. Holder),” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee. “The idea that these individuals, and other concerned parties from across the country, would have to fly to Washington, find a hotel, and stand in line for hours – or pay someone to do so – just to see justice in action shows how far the Court needs to come to get more in step with technology and transparency today.”

Currently, those who want to see U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments have to wait in line at the Court, sometimes days in advance, and hope to secure one of the 400 seats available. For arguments with wide public interest, line goers often are turned away although, in some cases, they may pay thousands of dollars for “line standers” to hold a place for them.

The Reporters Committee repeatedly has urged the Court to allow live audio and/or video in the past, most recently for the arguments regarding health care reform. Despite a letter from the Reporters Committee and 46 news organizations arguing for the overwhelming public interest, the Court rejected the request – although it did agree to expedite release of same-day audio recordings.

Some 15 years of congressional efforts to open the Court to live audio and video have been similarly unsuccessful.

In addition to the Reporters Committee, members of the Coalition for Court Transparency include: Alliance for Justice, American Society of News Editors, Constitutional Accountability Center, Liberty Coalition, National Association of Broadcasters, National Press Foundation, National Press Photographers Association, OpenTheGovernment.org, Radio Television Digital News Association and Society for Professional Journalists.

The ads are being supported by the New Venture Fund, a non-profit foundation that underwrites public-interest projects. Its mission is to foster change through strategic philanthropy.

“Everywhere” script (view at www.openscotus.com): "The Supreme Court’s decisions impact the lives of Americans everywhere. "But only a privileged few get to witness history and see justice in action. "Leading Republicans and Democrats and a large majority of Americans support a simple fix – putting cameras in the Supreme Court. "State and federal courts allow cameras in the interest of transparency. Shouldn’t our nation’s top court do the same? "It’s time for a more open judiciary. It’s time for cameras in the Supreme Court. "Find out more and take action at OpenSCOTUS.com."

About the Reporters Committee

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.

Contacts:

For the Coalition for Court Transparency: Gabe Roth Vice President, SKDKnickerbocker (o) 202-464-6919, (m) 312-545-8556 groth@skdknick.com

For the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: Debra Gersh Hernandez Communications Director (o) 703-807-2104, (m) 571-238-1499 dghernandez@rcfp.org