Senate committee approves bill requiring television cameras in Supreme Court

Top line

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved bipartisan bills requiring Supreme Court hearings to be televised and widely expand the use of television cameras in federal courts, suggesting that the two bills could stand a chance of ‘be adopted in the Senate.


A bill to make television coverage of public sessions of the Supreme Court mandatory was passed by the 15-7 committee, with four Republicans voting in favor.

The bill allows the majority of judges – some of whom have shied away from the idea – to turn off the cameras in cases where they believe that the televising of the proceedings would violate the due process rights of one of the parties before the court. the tribunal.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee’s top Republican and the lead co-author of the GOP bill, said allowing the public to watch the court proceedings “would achieve real transparency and improve civic health.” .

The committee also passed a Bill 15-7 to allow federal judges and the Supreme Court to allow television cameras in their courtrooms, making the rules nationally consistent which vary by jurisdiction. judicial districts.

This bill includes restrictions on the ability of the media to broadcast privileged conversations or jurors, and allows judges to grant additional protections to the identity of witnesses and jurors.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Who introduced this bill with Grassley, argued that there were “some pretty important cases happening in federal court,” while noting the various protections provided in the bill.

Key context

The United States Judicial Conference, which develops policies on the administration of federal courts, passed a rule in 1972 prohibiting “the broadcasting, television, recording or taking of photographs in the courtroom.” Those rules have since been relaxed for federal courts, and the Supreme Court has also adapted to allow audio.

Large number

64%. That’s the proportion of voters who said the Supreme Court should televise its hearings in a CSPAN / PSB poll in 2018, while only 23% said they shouldn’t.

Chief critic

“I think these measures are well intentioned, but I think they are misguided,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) Of the bills, saying that transparency is “particularly lacking in our court systems “because the Supreme Court and federal courts publish audio transcripts. Cotton warned that the video of the hearings could be “taken out of context,” echoing concerns of some judges.

Crucial quote

“A majority of my court thinks very strongly … that the television of our debates would change our collegial dynamic,” warned former judge Anthony Kennedy, former senator Arlen Specter, who tried unsuccessfully to pass a bill. putting cameras at the Supreme Court, during a hearing in 2010.

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