Bill to televise U.S. SC passes committee

John O'Brien Feb. 9, 2012, 12:22pm

Chief Justice John Roberts

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted in favor of allowing cameras into the U.S. Supreme Court.

In an 11-7 vote Thursday, the committee approved Senate Bill 1945, introduced by a bipartisan group in December. The bill still requires approval by both houses of Congress.

"The Supreme Court shall permit television coverage of all open sessions of the court unless the court decides, by a majority of justices, that allowing such coverage in a particular case would constitute a violation of the due process rights of one or more of the parties before the court," the bill says.

The bill was sponsored by Republicans Charles Grassley of Iowa and John Cornyn of Texas. Democrats sponsoring the bill were Dick Durbin of Illinois, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Charles Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

In an editorial that was published on, Northwestern University journalism professor Joe Mathewson wrote that it is time to put cameras in the courtroom.

"(T)he Supreme Court, despite numerous requests and even proposed congressional action extending over several decades, has never permitted television," he wrote. "The justices fear the presence of cameras would tarnish the court's dignified proceedings.

"But bear in mind that the Supreme Court doesn't try cases, so there's no danger of uncorking sensational trials like those of O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony or Michael Jackson's doctor. That's not the issue."

Mathewson wrote that two-thirds of the state supreme courts in the country allow cameras, as do two federal appellate courts.

Many are interested in viewing the coming health care debate that the court will hear in March. C-SPAN has asked the court for permission to broadcast arguments, Mathewson said.

Being debated is a mandate in President Barack Obama's health care reform that requires individuals to purchase health insurance or face a yearly penalty of $695. Twenty-six states say the mandate is unconstitutional, and the remainder of the law cannot stand without it.

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