Friday, April 30, 2010

Coming to Reality TV: Supreme Court Arguments?

West face of the United States Supreme Court b...Image via Wikipedia
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has forwarded three bills for consideration by the full Senate, including one that would permit televising U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments.

The Sunshine in  the Courtroom Act, sponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), authorizes federal chief district and appellate court judges to permit cameras to televise courtroom proceedings. The measure invites the Judicial Conference to develop guidelines for broadcasting courtroom goings-on, along with steps to be taken to shield crime victims and undercover law enforcement agents.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also passed S.B. 446, concerning electronic media access to Supreme Court hearings, that provides: "The Supreme Court shall permit television coverage of all open sessions of the court, unless the court decides by a vote of the majority of justices that allowing such coverage in a particular case would constitute a violation of the due process rights of one or more of  the parties before the court." Sen. Arlen Specter (D.-Pa.) introduced the bill.

The Committee also passed a resolution by a 13-6 vote, S. Res. 339, that expresses the sentiment that the Supreme Court should permit live tv access to open sessions. The "sense of the Senate" resolution is nonbinding.  H.R. 429, the companion bill to S.B. 446, was introduced in January 2009, to the House of Representatives, but is still languishing in the House Judiciary Committee.

Given the Separation of Powers doctrine, it's unsettled whether the Legislative Branch can force the Supreme Court and the rest of the judiciary to broadcast their proceedings.

Viewers may have to wait awhile to watch: "So You Think You Can Judge?"

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