1st Amendment News

Senate committee passes measures to boost judicial transparency

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a number of measures improving transparency in courtrooms including televising U.S. Supreme Court hearings. -db

The Blog of Legal Times
April 29, 2010
By Mike Scarcella

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed several measures today addressing greater transparency in the judicial system—including televising U.S. Supreme Court hearings.

One of the bills, the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act, would allow chief district and appellate judges to permit cameras in court. That bill asks the Judicial Conference to devise guidelines that judges can use in deciding whether to permit cameras. And the bill also instructs the Judicial Conference to craft guidelines that address the protection of undercover officers and crime victims, among other people.

A sponsor of the bill, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said in astatement today: “Letting the sun shine in on federal courtrooms will give Americans an opportunity to better understand the judicial process. This bill is the best way to maintain confidence and accountability in the judicial system and help judges do a better job.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that the federal courts have “lagged behind” Congress and its committees when it comes to televising proceedings.

“The bills advanced by the Judiciary Committee will allow more Americans to witness the Federal courts’ public proceedings,” Leahy said. “This is an important issue, and one I hope the Senate will consider this Congress.”

The judiciary committee also passed a bill and a resolution that address camera access in the Supreme Court. The bill would require the Court to televise oral arguments unless the Court voted, in a particular case, to prohibit live coverage. The resolution expressed the sentiment that the Supreme Court should televise oral arguments. The bill and resolution passed 13-6.

“Television coverage of the Supreme Court is long overdue, and I’m pleased that the Committee made progress on this front today,” Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) said in a statement today. Click here for Specter’s remarks earlier this month on Supreme Court cameras.

C-SPAN general counsel Bruce Collins said in a statement today “we continue to advocate for television coverage of Supreme Court oral arguments, as we have for greater openness of America’s government in general. It is encouraging to see the increasing number of Senators on the Judiciary Committee who share our view.”

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