Citing long lines outside the Supreme Court and the millions of Americans who are interested in, and affected by, the Court’s decisions but unable to see cases being argued, the new alliance of media and legal organizations from across the political spectrum, including RTDNA, has launched a television ad campaign calling on the justices to allow cameras to televise oral arguments.
The Coalition is taking the unprecedented step of using an ad campaign to draw attention to the lack of transparency in a powerful branch of government and to urge the Justices to change outdated restrictions.
“RTDNA has long supported efforts to convince the Court to open its doors to cameras, just as it now provides audio recordings of its proceedings," said RTDNA Executive Director Mike Cavender. "We’re pleased to join with the Coalition as we continue to work toward full transparency at the Supreme Court.”
While Congress has debated bipartisan, bicameral bills intended to compel Supreme Court justices to allow cameras over the last 15 years, legal experts agree the justices could simply decide today to allow cameras – and Monday’s cases regarding the Environment Protection Agency and its authority to address greenhouse gas pollution would be televised. In the past, C-SPAN officials have stated that the station would broadcast all of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments if allowed.
Currently, to attend Supreme Court hearings, individuals must stand in line outside the building on First Street NE and wait to be ushered in. There are roughly 400 seats in the courtroom, so many people hoping to view the arguments are unable to, especially in cases that have broad public interest, such as the marriage equality, voting rights, and affirmative action cases last term and the campaign finance, recess appointments, and public prayer cases this term. For these types of cases, interested parties must often line up hours, if not days, in advance of the arguments and in some instances pay thousands of dollars to “line-standers” to hold their places for them.
In addition to RTDNA, members of the Coalition for Court Transparency are: Alliance for Justice, American Society of News Editors, Constitutional Accountability Center, Liberty Coalition, National Association of Broadcasters, National Press Foundation, National Press Photographers Association, OpenTheGovernment.org, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Society for Professional Journalists.
Despite the Supreme Court’s own reluctance on cameras, Americans have greater access to high-level judicial hearings elsewhere in the country. All 50 state supreme courts permit recording equipment to varying degrees, and on the federal level the Judicial Conference of the United States has placed cameras in 14 federal courts as part of a three-year, multi-district pilot program to study the effect of broadcasting federal court proceedings.
RTDNA has been a leader in encouraging courts across the country to allow cameras, microphones and other electronic devices to aid in coverage and keep the public informed. Our state-by-state guide explains current rules for cameras in state and local courtrooms.
The ad, a 30-second television spot titled “Everywhere,” will run nearly 300 times in the Washington, D.C., market on cable news outlets over the next few weeks.
The Coalition also announced today that through its website, OpenSCOTUS.com, concerned Americans can sign an online petition calling on Chief Justice John Roberts to allow cameras in the Court.