Congress Tries To Put Cameras In Supreme Court Courtroom

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a bill to install cameras at the Supreme Court to broadcast oral arguments.

Current practice forbids filming or broadcasting the Court’s public proceedings. Instead, the Court’s public information office provides transcripts and audio recordings of oral arguments, though audio is typically released several days after argument.

The legislation, introduced by Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia and GOP Rep. Ted Poe of Texas, calls for television coverage of the Court’s public sessions, unless a majority of the justices feel allowing broadcast of a particular case would violate the due process rights of one of the parties.

“Our nation’s highest court is not some ‘mystical priesthood’ that can operate outside of the public view,” Connolly said. “It is a coequal branch of government and must be accountable to the American public. In today’s digital age, 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.” (RELATED: Supreme Court Hosting First Ever Live Webcast)

Fix the Court, a Supreme Court watchdog group, applauded the proposal.

“At a time when every aspect of our lives can be filmed and uploaded for the world to see, only through video-recording can the Supreme Court achieve a level of transparency that the public fully trusts,” said Gabe Roth, the group’s executive director. “I am pleased that a bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill that would give all Americans – no matter where they live – the ability to watch justice unfold in real time.”

The justices prefer not to broadcast their public proceedings, for fear lawyers arguing before the Court would be tempted to play for the support or sympathies of a television audience.

The Court itself operates on fairly archaic parameters. The justices do not use email, instead preferring to communicate with one another through memos circulated between chambers. In addition, the Court’s rulings are typically circulated among reporters in hard copy before a digital copy is posted online.

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