Court Still Mute On Televising Healthcare Argument

C-SPAN has been saying live TV coverage would be in the public interest
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C-SPAN tells B&C/Multi that it has still not
heard back from the Supreme Court on its request to televise the marathon oral
argument March 26 in the challenge to healthcare law.

Thursday
is the four-month anniversary of C-SPAN's Nov. 15 request that
the court permit it to televise the proceedings live and make the feed
available to anyone who wanted it.

The
court currently releases audio transcripts of oral argument at the end of each
week, an improvement of the Roberts court over the previous end-of-term
release. It also makes transcripts available online. But, as it has with other
high-profile arguments, C-SPAN says live TV coverage
would be in the public interest. The court has yet to allow cameras despite
repeated requests and a push in Congress for legislation that would require the
Justices to vote on coverage on a case-by-case basis.

Backers
of that bill
were hoping to get it passed before the oral argument, but that has not
happened. It did pass the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, but a similar
bill has passed that committee at least three times before.

Sen.
Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who sponsored that bill, pointed out that the Supreme
Court's "so-called" public hearings are only open to about 250 of the
nation's 300 million people in real time, minus those seats reserved for those
in the Supreme Court bar. He also said that since the Senate nominations for
those Supreme Court Justices are open to cameras, the same should be the case
when they cross the street to the court.

On
the other side is Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has pointed out that at
least five of the current Justices do not support televising proceedings, that
there were separation of powers issues about telling the Supreme Court what to
do, and that attorneys and even judges would be tempted to perform for the
cameras, as the Simpson trial demonstrated.

According
to C-SPAN spokesman Peter Kiley, if the court does not
permit that televised  coverage, it will air audio recordings with
accompanying photos, as it did with Bush v. Gore and other arguments.

The
court's audio transcripts are usually released Friday afternoon, says Kiley,
and the plan would be to air those on C-SPAN radio Friday afternoon,
and then air the audio of argument on the individual mandate on C-SPAN Friday at 7 p.m., then
the rest spread over four days April 2-5, in prime time (8 p.m.) on C-SPAN.

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