A bipartisan group of senators have introduced a bill to televise Supreme Court proceedings, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin announced Thursday.
The Cameras in the Courtroom Act, which the Judiciary Committee advanced in a 15-7 vote last Congress, was reintroduced Thursday by Democratic Illinois Sen. Durbin and Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. The bill would require the Supreme Court to allow television coverage of open court sessions, except in cases where a majority votes that it would violate due process rights.
Oral arguments have historically been open to the public, but seats in the courtroom are limited and available only on a first-come basis. The Supreme Court made live streams of audio available for the first time in May 2020, when it also held oral arguments remotely due to COVID-19, and has continued to live stream arguments even as it returned to the courtroom. On Sept. 28, the Supreme Court announced that the audio would continue to be available for the new 2022-2023 term.
BREAKING: @SenatorDurbin, @ChuckGrassley introduce bipartisan bill to televise Supreme Court proceedings in real time.
— Senate Judiciary Committee (@JudiciaryDems) March 16, 2023
“The judicial branch has a massive impact on our daily lives and the lives of generations to come, yet few Americans ever get the chance to see inside the legal process,” Sen. Grassley said in a statement. “Allowing cameras access to [the] Supreme Court would be a victory for transparency and would help the American people grow in confidence and understanding of the judiciary.”
Sen. Durbin said allowing cameras would increase transparency as “trust in the Supreme Court hovers near all-time lows.”
“We see an ever-apparent interest for the American people to be able to witness the highest court’s proceedings, from seemingly routine sessions to oral arguments in high-profile cases like Dobbs and Bruen, for example,” Sen. Durbin said. “As trust in the Supreme Court hovers near all-time lows, shining a light into the Supreme Court chamber would increase transparency, strengthen democracy, and help inform Americans of issues at the forefront of their government.”
The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Democratic Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Many Justices oppose cameras in the courtroom, though views are mixed. Some, like Chief Justice John Roberts, have argued that it would “impede” the Court’s process.
“I think it would be very helpful in getting more people familiar with how the Court operates, but that’s not our job, to educate people,” he said during remarks at the University of Minnesota Law School in 2018. “Our job is to carry out our role under the Constitution…I think that having cameras in the courtroom would impede that process.”
Sotomayor indicated she had “positive experiences” with cameras during her confirmation hearing in 2009, but moved away from that position later, saying in 2015 that “the temptation to grandstand in front of a camera is so huge,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“Every decision we make is written. Fully explained, fully defended, fully laid out,” she said in a 2021 interview with the Daily Show. “But you can’t do that and maintain a show.”
During her Senate confirmation hearing, Justice Amy Coney Barrett indicated she may support the idea.
“I would certainly keep an open mind about allowing cameras in the Supreme Court,” Barrett said when the question was posed by Grassley, according to Reuters.
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