With the Supreme Court likely to announce numerous high-profile opinions in the coming days, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation today to require open proceedings of the Court to be televised.
The Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2013 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 the Court. Similar bills were approved by bipartisan majorities of the Judiciary Committee during the last two Congresses.
"Decisions made by the Supreme Court impact the lives of Americans in every corner of the country, but their proceedings often don't reach beyond the four walls of the court room. Over the next several days, the Supreme Court will announce opinions in some of the most closely watched cases in a generation. People of reasonable minds may disagree on the proper outcome of these cases and others, but we can all agree that the American public deserves the opportunity to see firsthand the arguments and opinions that will shape their society for years to come," Durbin said.
"The Supreme Court is a symbol of justice and fairness. It considers some of the most important issues of our time. That's why the Cameras in the Courtroom bill is necessary. The accountability, transparency and openness that this bill would create would help increase understanding of, and appreciation for, the highest court in the land and the decisions the court makes," Grassley said.
The Cameras in the Courtroom Act 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. Public scrutiny of Supreme Court proceedings will produce greater accountability, transparency, and understanding of our judicial system.
Earlier this week, Durbin wrote to Chief Justice John Roberts urging him to increase public access to the Court's proceedings by providing live audio of all open sessions. A copy of that letter can be found here.
In December 2010, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts held a hearing on the bill where long-time advocate for televised court proceedings, former Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) testified. More information on that hearing can be can be found here.
In addition to Senators Durbin and Grassley, the Cameras in the Courtroom Act's original cosponsors include Senators Klobuchar (D-MN), Cornyn (R-TX), and Blumenthal (D-CT).