Durbin, Grassley Bill to Require Televising Supreme Court Proceedings Passes Committee Test

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - A bill to require open proceedings of the Supreme Court to be televised, introduced by Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today by a vote of 11-7.


The Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2011 would require television coverage of all open sessions of the Court, unless the Court decides, by a vote of the majority of justices, that doing so would constitute a violation of the due process rights of one or more of the parties before the Court. A similar bill was approved by a bipartisan majority of the Judiciary Committee last Congress.


“For too long the American public has been prevented from observing open sessions of the Supreme Court,” Durbin said. “As the final arbiter of constitutionality, the Supreme Court decides the most pressing and often most controversial issues of our time. In a democratic society that values transparency and participation, there can be no valid justification for such a powerful element of government to operate largely outside the view of the American people.”


“Our Constitution requires that the government be accountable to the people. The best way we can ensure that the federal government is accountable is to create transparency, openness, and access. That’s why the Cameras in the Courtroom bill is necessary. It would permit all Americans, not just the 200 people who can fit inside the public gallery, the opportunity to observe what is already a public proceeding,” Grassley said. “This is a tremendous opportunity which would help increase understanding of, and appreciation for, the highest court in the land.”


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. Public scrutiny of Supreme Court proceedings will produce greater accountability, transparency, and understanding of our judicial system.


In December, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts held a hearing on the bill where long-time advocate for televised court proceedings, former Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) testified. More information on that hearing can be can be found here.


In addition to Senators Durbin and Grassley, the Cameras in the Courtroom Act is cosponsored by Senators Klobuchar, Cornyn (R-TX), Blumenthal (D-CT), Schumer (D-NY), Harkin (D-IA) and Gillibrand (D-NY).