Blog of Rights

Cameras in the High Court: It's About Time

By Sandra Fulton, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:48pm

Former chief justice of the Supreme Court Warren Burger once said: "People in an open society do not demand infallibility from their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing." I could not agree more.

Yet despite this sentiment and the benefits of transparency in government, television cameras are still banned from open Supreme Court proceedings. This session alone, the court is scheduled to hear cases involving vital issues related to free speech, immigration, the establishment clause, and state secrets. Additional access to the court would allow Americans the opportunity to gain a better understanding of these issues and the debates surrounding them. Reading lengthy and sometimes dense legal opinions by justices can be a lot of fun and all, but isn't it about time the court moved into the 21st century and allowed the American people to witness first-hand the discussions surrounding these truly monumental issues?

In a move to correct this outdated situation, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) introduced S. 446, a bipartisan bill that would allow broadcast television coverage of open Supreme Court proceedings. The bill advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan vote of 13-6, and now awaits a floor vote. Please click here to tell your senator to urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bring S. 446 to the floor for a vote before the end of the 111th Congress and to vote in favor of the bill when he does.

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