As the Biden Administration launches its effort to explore reforms of the Supreme Court, one of the fixes that court watchdog group Fix the Court said should be on the table is expanded media access.
The President has created a 36-member commission to study potential changes. Obviously the highest-profile issue is whether to expand the number of justices, but according to the White House, also up for discussion case selection, rules and practices.
One practice Fix the Court has long pushed for is allowing video coverage of oral arguments. The court has allowed for end-of-the week release of oral argument audio, and in some cases same day. During the pandemic, it has been allowing live audio streaming of remote arguments, but has long declined to allow video coverage of any arguments. It is unclear whether the live-streamed audio will continue once the court can meet physically, though some groups have pushed for that to become the norm.
In making its pitch for various reforms, Fix the Court (FTC) pointed to the recent observation by cameras in the court fan Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), former chairman of the Judiciary Committee: “Decisions made by the Supreme Court can resonate with our nation for generations, yet most Americans will never have a chance to see the highest court in action. Opening up the Supreme Court’s public proceedings to cameras and other broadcast tools provides a window into the court for all Americans, not just those in Washington, D.C.”
FTC has to advocate for commission court fixes from the outside since FTC's prime mover, executive director Gabe Roth, was not named to the commission, which was skewed toward academics rather than those in the court reform trenches.
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.
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