Bill Would Mandate Court Streaming During Pandemic

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) wants to make sure that the public gets a virtual seat in the gallery for the new normal of streamed court proceedings.

The Supreme Court will for the first time hear oral argument over the Internet starting May 4--C-SPAN is providing the feed of the audio-only argument--and has been joined by at least 27 state supreme courts, according to Fix the Court. In addition, 12 of 13 federal appeals courts have held remote hearings, nine of them live streamed.

Related: Majority of State Supreme Courts Stream Arguments

Quigley wants all court hearings to be streamed to the public during the pandemic.

His bill:

1. "Requires any arguments heard in a circuit court via audio or video conference to be livestreamed to the public, and

2. "Expands on the CARES Act section on audio/videoconferencing trial court proceedings to open them up to the media either by livestream on the court’s website or by coordinating with a third party to provide the livestream."

“We need to do everything we can to ensure press and public access to judicial proceedings continues during this outbreak," said Quigley. "While the Supreme Court took a step in the right direction by allowing oral arguments to be heard via telephone conference, we can do more to develop and adopt new technologies to preserve the transparency of our federal courts while practicing safe social distancing."

The bill is endorsed by Fix the Court.

“Of course the public should have access to the remote proceedings our federal courts are holding during the pandemic,” Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth said in a statement on Quigley's web site. “Some courts have recognized this imperative and are offering live broadcasts, but this timely legislation would go a step further and codify a uniform broadcast policy in the appeals courts and a uniform broadcast policy in the trial courts." 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.