Gavel Grab

Cameras at Supreme Court Debated Before Senate Panel

On Monday, two senators introduced legislation to require the Supreme Court to permit video coverage of its hearings. A day later, lead witnesses appearing before Congress questioned the national legislature’s authority to impose cameras on the high court.

The legislation by Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, raises questions about the constitutional separation of powers, lawyer Maureen Mahoney and Chief Judge Anthony Scirica of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit told the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to a Blog of Legal Times post.

The issue has gained heightened attention in the wake of the high court’s decision to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the new federal health care law, and C-SPAN has asked to televise the five and a half hours of oral arguments set in March (see Gavel Grab).

Former Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who has advocated TV cameras in the Supreme Court in the past, disagreed Tuesday about the separation of powers questions. He said Congress now decides issues – including how many justices sit on the court, and when it starts hearing arguments each year – that affect the Court. About the health care case, Specter testified, “That is a case which touches every American and ought to be accessible to the public.”

SCOTUSblog publisher Tom Goldstein suggested in his testimony that the court arguments over health care would be watched, if televised, by at least 50 million people.

Another witness was Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady. Cameras are allowed in the Iowa court, and the public can get a better understanding of the courts from video coverage, he said. “Our courts are an honest thing,” Justice Cady added. “Cameras can help show it.”

To view Justice at Stake’s live Tweet of the Tuesday hearing, click here.

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