First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
Senate committee OKs TV in Supreme Court

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court hearings could be shown on TV under a bill approved by a Senate committee yesterday but opposed by some high court justices.

Two bills that, if they became law, would allow more federal court proceedings to be televised moved a step forward in the Judiciary Committee.

One, S. 1768, which passed 12-6, would require the Supreme Court to permit television coverage of all open sessions unless a majority of the justices decide that coverage in a particular case would violate the due process rights of a party before the court.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said the Supreme Court becomes a "super-legislature" when it decides far-reaching public-policy questions, and should make its proceedings more accessible.

"The public has a right to know what the Supreme Court is doing," Specter, R-Pa., said.

The proposal, long opposed by some justices and interest groups, gained new life last year when Chief Justice John Roberts said during his confirmation hearings that he would keep an open mind on the question of cameras in courts.

Two sitting justices, Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen Breyer, and former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, left no doubt about their opposition to cameras in the high court during an American Bar Association event in November.

Several justices have said they were troubled by the televised O.J. Simpson trial a decade ago.

Another sitting justice was more blunt: "The day you see a camera come into our courtroom it's going to roll over my dead body," Justice David Souter told a congressional panel in 1996.

Though some states allow some camera coverage of court proceedings, cameras are forbidden in federal district courts. Federal appeals courts have varying policies. Resistance has been stiffest in the Supreme Court, where reporters are prohibited from bringing any recording device into the room where the nine justices hear arguments in about 80 cases a year.

A second bill, sponsored by Judiciary Committee members Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would allow federal trial and appellate judges to permit cameras in the courtroom. The measure, S. 829, passed the panel 10-6.

2 justices say high court no place for TV cameras
Clarence Thomas tells House panel that coverage could undermine how justices consider cases; Anthony Kennedy says camera decision is Court's business. 04.06.06


Mississippi justices OK cameras in courtrooms

'Mississippians will now be able to see what the rest of the country has had for years,' journalist says after high court approves new rules. 04.18.03

N.Y. high court: No right exists for TV cameras in courtroom
Judges unanimous in rejecting Court TV's claim, say it is Legislature's job to decide whether trials may be televised. 06.16.05

Illinois high court rejects bid to allow cameras in courtrooms
Chief justice tells AP that court denied news-media request out of concern about how coverage could affect juror, public opinion. 09.15.05

Senator renews effort to televise high court proceedings
By Melanie Bengtson Arlen Specter re-introduces bill that would allow TV cameras in all open sessions unless majority of justices object. 02.09.07

Congress moves closer to allowing cameras in federal courts
By Tony Mauro Despite Supreme Court justices' long-standing unease over cameras, lawmakers think time may be right. 11.11.05

It's time to let public tune in the voices of the Supreme Court
By Ronald K.L. Collins Justices have slowly moved toward more-open proceedings; airing oral arguments on radio would be good next step. 03.15.07

Cameras in the courtroom

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

print this   Print

Last system update: Thursday, November 13, 2008 | 21:32:17
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment

First Reports
Supreme Court
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Freedom Sings™
First Amendment

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment

Lesson plans
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links