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Grassley, Schumer Bring Back Cameras in Court Bill

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have introduced legislation that could be subtitled the "try, try again" bill: Sunshine in the Courtroom Act, the 2015 edition.

Grassley, now chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Schumer have been trying to pass legislation to allow cameras in federal courts, including the Supreme Court, since 1999.

The bill would only permit media coverage of trial and appellate cases, not mandate it, and only at the discretion of the judge and with "safeguards" for the privacy of witnesses and the protection of due process.

"This bill grants the presiding judge in all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, the discretion to allow cameras in the courtroom while protecting the identities of witnesses and jurors when necessary or upon request," Grassley said in announcing the new push. "It also prohibits media coverage of private conversations between clients and counsel, between opposing attorneys, and between counsel and the presiding judge. The bill contains a three-year sunset provision, requiring Congress to evaluate how media access is impacting the judiciary."

Co-sponsoring the bill were Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Among the criticisms of such legislation is that its directive to the courts is a separation of powers issue.

The bill was introduced in conjunction with the Sunshine Week open government initiative.