Senate Bill Would Require Cameras in Supreme Court
WASHINGTON — A bill introduced in the Senate last week would require the Supreme Court to televise its hearings.
Senators who introduced the bill said it would help to ensure transparency and better public understanding of how the court operates.
“Rulings made by justices in our nation’s highest court impact the lives of every American, regardless of ZIP code,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement. “We see an ever-apparent interest for the American people to be able to witness the highest court’s proceedings, from seemingly routine sessions to oral arguments in high-profile cases like Dobbs and Bruen, for example.”
The Dobbs case Durbin mentioned eliminated the federal right to abortion. The Bruen case expanded gun rights.
Similar sentiment was found in a C-SPAN/Pierrepont poll last year that showed a majority of likely voters wanted television coverage at the Supreme Court. Seventy percent of the respondents said televised hearings would build public trust.
Durbin is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was joined in introducing the bill by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
The bill, called the Cameras in the Courtroom Act, would allow an exception if the justices vote to exclude cameras in cases where they might interfere with a party’s due process rights.
In all other cases, the bill would require that the Supreme Court “permit television coverage of all open sessions.”
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito argued against cameras in the courtroom saying cameras would undermine oral arguments because lawyers would be competing for media attention.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the same bill in 2021 but it never made it to a vote in the full Senate chamber. Although it was reintroduced last week with bipartisan support, early indications give no clear hint of whether it will win final approval in Congress.
It represents another step toward opening the Supreme Court for more public scrutiny. The court began livestreaming audio in 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The judicial branch has a massive impact on our daily lives and the lives of generations to come, yet few Americans ever get the chance to see inside the legal process,” Grassley said.