Senate Judiciary Approves Bill Requiring Cameras in Supreme Court
By an 11-7 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee today approved a bill that calls for television access to Supreme Court proceedings. The bill, S.1945, faces an uncertain future in the full Senate and the House of Representatives, amid separation-of-powers concerns about Congress telling the Court how to conduct its business.
Senators who favored the bill cited the upcoming Supreme Court oral arguments on the health care legislation as but one example of the need for broadcast access. Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), spoke of the “tremendous public interest in the historic arguments” over the Affordable Care Act. Media organizations have asked the Court for broadcast access, or at least expedited release of the audio of the arguments set for the week of March 26, without luck so far.
Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill.), sponsor of the bill, said that there is no justification for the Court to be “outside the view of the American people.” Durbin said several justices have said they oppose camera access in part because they think the public won’t understand the proceedings. Durbin likened that argument to taking art out of art museums because visitors might not have the sophistication to understand what they are seeing.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a former Supreme Court law clerk who voted for the bill, nonetheless balked at Durbin’s analogy. “The fear is danger to the art itself,” Blumenthal said, suggesting he sympathized with justices’ concerns that the arguments and the dynamics of the Court might be affected by the presence of cameras.