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Sens. Seek Same-Day Audio From Supremes

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have called on the Supreme Court to release same-day audio of all oral arguments.

That came in a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts pointing out that the court had released same-day audio of Donald Trump v. Hawaii, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals case involving the President's controversial travel ban.

"By providing same-day audio for oral arguments in this case, the Court demonstrated its technical capacity to provide prompt disclosure and transparency to the American public," they told Roberts. "We believe there is no reason why Americans should have to wait several days to hear the audio recordings of oral arguments in other matters before the Court."

Related: Cameras in Court Bill Re-introduced.

They said that transparency should be the rule, rather than the exception.

For example, the Supreme Court denied a request by court transparency group Fix the Court last April to release same-day audio of oral argument in a church v. state case.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia was historically one of the strongest opponents of cameras or microphones in the court, but his successor, Neil Gorsuch, has said he would keep an open mind about cameras.

Grassley and Leahy have long championed opening up the courts to electronic media, including teaming up on legislation to open federal courts, including the Supreme Court, to cameras.

"I'm appreciative that in the face of what's expected to be a contentious confirmation hearing later this summer, Judiciary Committee heavyweights from both parties have come together to make this request," said Gabe Roth, who heads up Fix the Court. "As Sens. Grassley and Leahy point out, every other federal appeals court in the country releases argument audio more quickly than the Supreme Court, and there's no reason for the justices to continue their antiquated end-of-week audio policy. At a time when the country and court itself is polarized, granting the public expedited access to hour-long lessons in civics and collegiality seems prudent."

"C-SPAN welcomes the bipartisan appeal to the Supreme Court by Senators Grassley and Leahy for same-day release of oral argument recordings," said Bruce D. Collins, C-SPAN general counsel. "It would be another step toward greater public access to the Court through the news media. We urge the Court to adopt the senators' suggestion, particularly now as public attention is focusing on the appointment and confirmation of a new justice, and as the Court seems ready to take up issues of great public interest."

John Eggerton
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.