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Congress tries to put cameras in the courtroom — again

For the fourth time in as many Congresses, a bill has been introduced to compel the Supreme Court to televise its proceedings. Earlier versions of the bill, which was sponsored in the House of Representatives by members from both sides of the aisle, have failed to become law. The justices have generally opposed any suggestion that their public sessions should be televised, although many state supreme courts and some of the lower federal courts do broadcast their proceedings.

The bill would require the court to allow television coverage of “all open sessions of the Court unless” a majority of the justices believes that doing so in a particular case “would constitute a violation of the due process rights of one of more of the parties before the” Supreme Court. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said in a statement that “it strains credulity that this modest effort at transparency would prove impossible or somehow inhibit the ability of our Justices to hear cases in a fair manner.” His co-sponsor, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Tex., indicated that he was “one of the first judges in Texas to allow cameras in the courtroom. It worked. A simple non-intrusive camera would allow for greater transparency and greater faith in the decisions made by the Federal Government.”

Roughly 50 seats in the Supreme Court’s gallery are available to the public, on a first-come, first-served basis. For very high-profile cases, like the 2013 arguments in the challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage, some of the people seated in the public section paid line-standers thousands of dollars to secure a seat for them.

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Congress tries to put cameras in the courtroom — again, SCOTUSblog (Jan. 16, 2017, 8:24 AM),