Senators introduce bill to require open proceedings of U.S. SC to be televised

By Jessica M. Karmasek | May 8, 2015

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley have introduced legislation that would require all open proceedings of the U.S. Supreme Court to be televised.


The bipartisan Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2015 would require television coverage of all open sessions of the court, unless the court decides, by a majority vote of the justices, that doing so would constitute a violation of the due process rights of one or more of the parties before it.


Durbin, D-Ill., noted he was fortunate enough to attend the oral arguments in King v. Burwell -- a challenge to IRS subsidies under the federal health care law -- in March.

However, if he hadn’t, Durbin said he wouldn’t have been able to witness the “lively debate” that occurred.


“It’s time to bring transparency into the halls of the Supreme Court,” he said. “Though people may disagree on the outcomes of court rulings, I think we can all agree that the American people deserve the opportunity to see the public proceedings of the nation’s highest court.


“As the Supreme Court considers cases on health care, marriage equality and many other critical issues that impact Americans’ daily lives, bringing cameras into the courtroom would only benefit the judicial process.”


Grassley agreed, saying the court considers some of the most important issues, yet most will never be able to see it in action.


“That’s why the Cameras in the Courtroom bill is necessary,” the Iowa Republican said. “This bill brings greater accountability, transparency and openness to the highest court in the land, and would help increase public understanding of, and appreciation for the decisions the court makes.”


The bill only applies to open sessions of the Supreme Court -- sessions where members of the public are already invited to observe in person, but often cannot because there are a very limited number of unreserved seats in the courtroom.


This isn’t the first time such legislation has been introduced.


A similar bill was approved by the judiciary committee on a bipartisan vote of 11-7 in 2012 and in 2010 by a committee vote of 13-6.


From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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