First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
print this   Print

Chief justice says Court not interested in allowing cameras

By The Associated Press

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Chief Justice John Roberts said last week that the Supreme Court is not interested in televising its hearings, and might never be.

"All of the justices view themselves as trustees of an extremely valuable institution," Roberts told dozens of federal judges, attorneys and their family members at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa on July 13. "We're going to be very careful before we do anything that will have an adverse impact on that."

Roberts, a President Bush appointee who just finished his first term last month, told a conference of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that "We don't have oral arguments to show people, the public, how we function."

While states allow some camera coverage of court proceedings, cameras are forbidden in federal district courts. Federal appeals courts have varying policies, with the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit often permitting print and television cameras during hearings.

Resistance to television, however, has been stiffest at the Supreme Court, which releases audio tapes of its hearings.

In 1996, Justice David Souter told a congressional panel, "The day you see a camera come into our courtroom it's going to roll over my dead body."

During a 40-minute speech, Roberts pressed for an increase in judicial pay, a suggestion he also made during his first speech assessing the judiciary Jan. 1.

"We ought to pay them enough so that they can educate their children and have a reasonable enough lifestyle," Roberts said.

U.S. district court judges earn $162,500 annually, appeals court judges $175,000 and Supreme Court justices, $203,000.

Roberts, the youngest member of the court at 51, recalled the day a year earlier when the White House phoned to see if he wanted to interview for a job on the high court.

"As it turned out, I could," Roberts recalled to laughter from the audience of about 350.

In the term that began in October, the high court decided 69 cases, about half unanimously.

"I think that that is good," he said. "I do think it promotes the rule of law to have the Court speaking, as much as possible, with one voice."

Still, Roberts spoke little of his first term. He quipped: "All's well that ends."

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


Supreme Court to post same-day transcripts online

In past, oral arguments have been transcribed from audio recordings and made available roughly two weeks later. 09.15.06

Roberts moving Court in more media-friendly direction

Some justices have been popping up in unusual places — including network TV news programs — and talking about more than just the law. 12.27.06

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.

Last system update: Friday, April 23, 2010 | 15:55:46
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
How to contribute
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment

Religious liberty in public schools
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