Cameras in Court Bill Resurfaces

Congress is taking another shot at getting the Supreme Court to let cameras see how the sausage is made, as Congress has been doing for decades thanks to C-SPAN.

Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) have reintroduced the Cameras in the Court Act. It provides plenty of discretion for the judges—separation of powers is always an issue when court camera congressional mandates are debated.

The bill is contained in a single paragraph: "The Supreme Court shall permit television coverage of all open sessions of the Court unless the Court decides, by a vote of the majority of justices, that allowing such coverage in a particular case would constitute a violation of the due process rights of one or more of the parties before the Court.’’

“Our nation’s highest court is not some 'mystical priesthood' that can operate outside of the public view,” said Connolly in reintroducing the bill. “It is a coequal branch of government and must be accountable to the American public. In today’s digital age, it strains credulity that this modest effort at transparency would prove impossible or somehow inhibit the ability of our Justices to hear cases in a fair manner.”

"It is time to give the American public the opportunity to see the most important court in the world in action,” said Poe, himself a former Texas criminal court judge.

"Unobtrusive wall-mounted cameras already broadcast courtroom proceedings from numerous state and federal appeals courts around the country, and there is no reason why the U.S. Supreme Court cannot join them," said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court.

"In fact, in none of the camera-permissive courtrooms has the presence of video-recording devices impacted the discharge of justice.

"At a time when every aspect of our lives can be filmed and uploaded for the world to see, only through video-recording can the Supreme Court achieve a level of transparency that the public fully trusts. I am pleased that a bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill that would give all Americans - no matter where they live - the ability to watch justice unfold in real time."

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.