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U.S. Supreme Court denies C-SPAN request to televise Bush-Gore case

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting         Nov 27, 2000    

U.S. Supreme Court denies C-SPAN request to televise Bush-Gore case

  • The justices prefer to keep with the present practice of allowing a small gallery to view oral arguments, even for a case that may determine the outcome of this year’s presidential election.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request for camera access to the historic argument scheduled for Dec. 1 that could potentially end the three weeks of certainty about which candidate won the 2000 presidential election.

“Today the Court took up the question of televising these proceedings and a majority of the Court remains of the view that we should adhere to out present practice of allowing public attendance and print media coverage of argument sessions, but not allow camera or audio coverage,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in a letter dated Nov. 27.

On Nov. 22, two days before the justices accepted an appeal filed by Gov. George W. Bush, C-SPAN Chairman Brian Lamb sent a letter to the Court requesting camera access to any hearings on the case, which challenges the constitutionality of a Florida Supreme Court that extended the deadline to complete manual counts of ballots in three counties.

“If the Court were to become involved in determining any aspect of the outcome of the election, the public interest in the Court and its role in our government would likely never be higher,” Lamb wrote in the letter to the justices. Lamb added that the coverage would be an immense public service and would help the country accept the outcome of the election. On Nov. 26, the Florida secretary of state certified the popular vote following the extended recount and awarded Bush with the state’s 25 electoral college votes. Barring the outcome of other lawsuits, the win seemingly awards the presidency to the Texas Republican.

Bruce Collins, corporate vice president and general counsel at C-SPAN, found a hint of good news in the Court’s rejection.

“Apparently, it was not a unanimous decision today when all nine justices met to discuss televising Friday’s hearing. Maybe one of these days the minority in favor of a televised Supreme Court will become a majority,” he said.

CNN has also assumed the arduous task of trying to convince the justices to permit video coverage of the oral arguments.

The cable television network has called on well-known First Amendment advocate Floyd Abrams to frame the argument for live coverage. Abrams said the petition will be filed on the afternoon of Nov. 27.

If the justices’ past comments can provide any insight to the future of cameras in the nation’s highest court, the chances are slim for any live coverage of the unprecedented hearing involving the presidential election.

In 1996, Justice David Souter told a senate subcommittee “the day you see a camera come into our courtroom, it’s going to roll over my dead body.” More recently, in October, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said at a conference in Canada that she would not object to gavel-to-gavel coverage, provided the Court retain control of the cameras.

In September, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) introduced a bill to the Senate that would open the Court at their discretion, but the bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

(Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board) TH

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