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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, today I am reintroducing the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act, a bipartisan bill which permits judges at all federal court levels to open their courtrooms to television cameras and radio broadcasts.

Openness in our courts improves the public's understanding of what happens inside our courts. Our judicial system remains a mystery to too many people across the country. That doesn't need to continue. Letting the sun shine in on federal courtrooms will give Americans an opportunity to better understand the judicial process. Courts are the bedrock of the American justice system. I believe that granting the public greater access to an already public proceeding will inspire greater faith in and appreciation for our judges who pledge equal and impartial justice for all.

For decades, States such as my home state of Iowa have allowed cameras in their courtrooms with great results. As a matter of fact, only the District of Columbia prohibits trial and appellate court coverage entirely. Nineteen states allow news coverage in most courts; sixteen allow coverage with slight restrictions; and the remaining fifteen allow coverage with stricter rules.

The bill I am introducing today, along with Senator Schumer and five other cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, including Judiciary Chairman Leahy, will greatly improve public access to federal courts by letting federal judges open their courtrooms to television cameras and other forms of electronic media.

The Sunshine in the Courtroom Act is full of provisions that ensure that the introduction of cameras and other broadcasting devices into courtrooms goes as smoothly as it has at the state level. First, the presence of the cameras in Federal trial and appellate courts is at the sole discretion of the judges, it is not mandatory. The bill also provides a mechanism for Congress to study the effects of this legislation on our judiciary before making this change permanent through a three-year sunset provision. The bill protects the privacy and safety of non-party witnesses by giving them the right to have their faces and voices obscured. The bill prohibits the televising of jurors. Finally, it includes a provision to protect the due process rights of each party.

We need to open the doors and let the light shine in on the Federal Judiciary. This bill improves public access to and therefore understanding of our Federal courts. It has safety provisions to ensure that the cameras won't interfere with the proceedings or with the safety or due process of anyone involved in the cases. Our states have allowed news coverage of their courtrooms for decades. It is time we join them.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.


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