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An update on our press pass

Last week, the Senate Press Gallery denied SCOTUSblog’s application for a press pass, and advised us that it would refuse to renew the credential it had previously granted Lyle when it expires next month.  We were disappointed in that decision, and we are grateful for the support that we have received through social media, emails, and phone calls.

We thought it would be useful to write and explain the state of play regarding our credentialing.  SCOTUSblog is not now, and has never been, credentialed by the Supreme Court.  The Court’s longstanding policy was to look to credentials issued by the Senate.  We pursued a Senate credential for several years, modifying several policies of the blog to address concerns expressed by the Gallery.  Last year, we  finally succeeded – the Senate Press Gallery credentialed Lyle as a reporter for SCOTUSblog.  We then presented that credential to the Supreme Court, thinking that the issue was resolved.

But the Court declined to recognize the credential, explaining that it would instead review its credentialing policy.  The Court has not indicated when that review will conclude.

In the interim, we do have a largely uninterrupted ability to cover the Court, which has tried to accommodate the blog, despite declining to credential it.  Well before the Senate issued a credential to Lyle, the Court had recognized Lyle based on his work for WBUR in Boston.  That remains unchanged.  Also, as an interim measure during the review of its policies, we have requested public seats for the cases that Amy is covering, and the Court has granted all those requests.

All that said, the Senate Press Gallery’s decision to deny us a credential is important to us.  We wanted the credential in substantial part because we cover Supreme Court-related matters in the Senate.  Most significantly, we do gavel-to-gavel, liveblog coverage of Supreme Court nominations.  We also expect to cover hearings related to the Court’s budget.  So those efforts are now more difficult.

So we plan to appeal the Senate Gallery’s credentialing decision.  We do not have a written list of the reasons for the denial, which makes the process more difficult.  Our impression is also that the appeal may go to the same group that denied the application in the first place.  If the appeal is denied, then we expect to litigate the issue.  We’re now coordinating all those efforts with other groups that kindly have offered to support us.

All in all, the refusal by the Court and the Senate to credential us have always seemed strange.  No one seems to doubt that we are a journalistic entity and that we serve a public function.  Winning the Peabody and other awards would seem to confirm that.  And the Court for years has functionally recognized us, because obviously the overwhelming majority of Lyle’s work is for us.  We do not want any kind of special treatment.  Credentialing the blog doesn’t give us any special power or recognition; it just makes our jobs incrementally easier.  All in all, it doesn’t seem to make sense to impose burdens on us that are greater than those that apply to others who fundamentally do the same thing.

Recommended Citation: Tom Goldstein, An update on our press pass, SCOTUSblog (Apr. 16, 2014, 9:56 AM),