Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have reintroduced a bill to allow cameras in federal courts, including the Supreme Court.
The Sunshine in the Courtroom Act gives the presiding judge in a federal court the discretion to allow cameras, protecting the identities of witnesses and jurors when ended. It does not allow those cameras to capture private conversations between clients and counsel, opposing counsels, and with the judge.
It would also need to be renewed after three years.
It has been a decades-long effort on the Hill to open the courts to cameras, always with the caveat that it be at the discretion of judges on a case-by-case basis.
C-SPAN has demonstrated the value of television in the political process and the ability to do it unobtrusively, and Grassley cited the cable-backed public service network in trying once more to get the rest of Congress to join in the effort.
"Allowing cameras in the courts creates a window into our judicial process for those Americans who may never climb the courtroom steps," said Grassley Wednesday. "In much the same way that C-SPAN fostered a greater understanding of the legislative process and improved transparency in Congress, allowing cameras in federal courtrooms would contribute to a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the American judicial system,” Grassley said.
Grassley pointed out that all 50 states now have some form of audio and video coverage. Federal courts have some form as well but usually only on special request or with a time delay rather than live coverage.
Grassley is also lead cosponsor of another bill requiring TV camera access to Supreme Court oral arguments.
The Sunshine in the Courtroom Act is being reintroduced in concert with Sunshine Week, which celebrates access to government information.