Cameras in high court? The battle goes on

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Passage of a bill to require video coverage of the Supreme Court of the United States is an “uphill battle,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar told reporters. But “one can always try. It’s sometimes surprising how these things happen,” said Klobuchar.

By J.C. Derrick
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

A U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee met today to hear testimony from both sides of the debate over allowing cameras to videotape oral arguments before the country’s highest court.

The hearing in the Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts came after Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday filed the Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2011, which would require the U.S. Supreme Court to televise its public proceedings.

The bill has drawn considerable attention since the Court is scheduled to hear three cases challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act early next year. Last month The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote to Chief Justice John Roberts urging him to allow cameras in the courtroom, noting that the Court’s decision on health care reform “deeply affects millions of Americans.”

After the hearing, subcommittee chairwoman U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) acknowledged to reporters that passing the bill before March would be an uphill battle, but “one can always try. It’s sometimes surprising how these things happen.”
Klobuchar said while the Affordable Care Act is an important reason for passing the legislation, “We’re very much interested in doing this for the long haul, not just one case.”

Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, started the witness testimony with a strong endorsement of cameras in the Supreme Court.

“I believe the legitimacy of the Court is at stake,” he said. “There have been no good reasons advanced why not to televise the Supreme Court.”

Maureen Mahoney, an attorney at Latham and Watkins in Washington, D.C., who has argued several cases before the high Court, argued vehemently against the measure, which she said would undermine the credibility of the Court by altering the behavior of both lawyers and justices. She read a litany of quotes from past and present U.S. Supreme Court justices in opposition to cameras in the courtroom.

“Congress has always left the Court alone,” Mahoney said, noting that the Supreme Court itself would make the final determination about the bill’s legality, should it become law and be questioned. “The benefits are not worth the constitutional confrontation,” she said. Continue  reading.

Franklin Center Statement on Decline of Investigative Journalism

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Alexandria, VA – Jason Stverak, President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, released the following statement regarding the news that Michael Copps, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, acknowledged that investigative journalism is a dying industry due to newspaper cutbacks.

“There is no denying that the demise of investigative journalism is a problem for more than those who loved reading the latest investigative news pieces. Investigative journalism is the most effective weapon of the press and without it there are fewer watchdogs working to keep our elected officials and bureaucrats accountable. Without the watchful eye of investigative reporters; elected officials and government bureaucrats can operate under a cloud of darkness. Not until legislation is passed or contracts given out, will the public learn of how their tax dollars are being spent and how their lives are impacted.

This expanding void in investigative journalism is now being filled by nonprofit journalism organizations and citizen journalists. They have the capacity to spend time becoming immersed in the story and uncover the details that may be overlooked by the traditional media. These watchdogs are taking over for the old journalism guard— keeping politicians accountable – and making headlines around the nation.

The decline of newspapers doesn’t mean the end of investigative journalism. It only means that new alternatives must arise to fill the void left by traditional media. The future of investigative reporting is bright. The only difference is that the reporter may not have a newsroom desk and be a salaried employee.”