Reps. Rally for Cameras in the Courtroom Outside the Supreme Court, Introduce Bipartisan Eyes on the Courts Act

Oct 8, 2015 Issues: Civil Liberties

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet and senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, along with Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and Ted Poe (R-TX) continued their call for greater public access to our federal court deliberations with a rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court Building. The members also introduced the bipartisan Eyes on the Courts Act, which would require cameras be permitted in the Supreme Court and at all federal appellate courts.

“Public scrutiny of government proceedings is essential to democracy,” said Rep. Nadler. “But, in an age when we have nearly a thousand channels available to us on our television sets, and can stream almost unlimited programming on our smart phones, we do not have televised access to our federal courts. How is it possible that we can keep up with the Kardashians, but we cannot keep up with the Supreme Court? This legislation would finally bring these important cases into public view, by requiring that cameras be allowed in all Supreme Court and federal appellate court proceedings.”

“The Supreme Court has begun a new term this week, yet television coverage of the Court, which would give the public more access to their deliberations, is still not permitted,” said Rep. Quigley. “The American public is better served when all three branches of our government are transparent and accessible. It is time for cameras to be allowed in the courtrooms, and the Eyes on the Courts Act would do just that.”

“The Supreme Court is not some mystical, druidic priesthood that periodically deigns to review constitutional issues and hand down their wisdom from on high,” said Rep. Connolly. “It is a human institution, a co-equal branch of government, and it is long overdue that the American public has better access to their highest court. These two bills will help bring the Court into the 21st century.”

“The Supreme Court is the most important court in the world. However, very few citizens have the chance to watch the Court in action when historic lawsuits come before it,” said Rep. Poe. “This is because the seating in the courtroom is limited. Monumental cases affect every single American; yet only a select group will be able to attend the hearing.  Cameras, controlled by the Court staff, would allow for greater access in the decisions made by the nine jurists in black robes. I know cameras can be placed in a courtroom without disruption because I was one of the first judges in Texas to allow cameras to film criminal cases. A lack of seating capacity is no reason to deny the American people the right to see Supreme Court proceedings. The American people deserve an all-access pass to watch the High Court rule on the law of the land.”

The Eyes on the Courts Act would bring important cases into public view by requiring that cameras be allowed in all Supreme Court and federal appellate court proceedings.  If a presiding judge determined that permitting cameras in a specific case would violate the due process rights of a party, or would otherwise not be in the interests of justice, the proceedings could still be closed.  However, the judge would be required to make such a finding, in writing, to ensure that this authority is used only where warranted.  The bill does not include federal district courts where there may be legitimate privacy concerns when it comes to witnesses and jurors.