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Cameras in the High Court?

 With the Supreme Court considering numerous high-profile opinions in the coming months, Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation Wednesday to require open proceedings of the Court to be televised. Today’s bill introduction coincides with “Sunshine Week,” a national initiative aimed at promoting a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

The bipartisan Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2015 would require television coverage of all open sessions of the Court, unless the Court decides, by a majority vote of the Justices, that doing so would constitute a violation of the due process rights of one or more of the parties before the Court.

“Earlier this month I attended the oral arguments of King v. Burwell before the Supreme Court. Unless you happened to be one of the few fortunate people in the courtroom that day, you would not have been able to witness the lively debate that occurred,” Durbin said. “It’s time to bring transparency into the halls of the Supreme Court. Though people may disagree on the outcomes of Court rulings, I think we can all agree that the American people deserve the opportunity to see the public proceedings of the nation’s highest court. As the Supreme Court considers cases on healthcare, marriage equality, and many other critical issues that impact Americans’ daily lives, bringing cameras into the courtroom would only benefit the judicial process.”

“The Supreme Court considers some of the most important issues of our time, yet most Americans will never be able to see it in action. That’s why the Cameras in the Courtroom bill is necessary. This bill brings greater accountability, transparency and openness to the highest court in the land, and would help increase public understanding of, and appreciation for the decisions the court makes,” Grassley said.

The Cameras in the Courtroom Act only applies to open sessions of the Supreme Court – sessions where members of the public are already invited to observe in person, but often cannot because there are a very limited number of unreserved seats in the Courtroom. Public scrutiny of Supreme Court proceedings will produce greater accountability, transparency, and understanding of our judicial system.

In 2012, the bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan vote of 11-7. The bill was also approved by the Committee on a bipartisan vote of 13-6 in 2010.