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.