Supremes Could Become TV Stars


Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has introduced a bill to permit TV cameras in open Supreme Court sessions, unless the majority in a particular case decides it would violate due process.

Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, signaled he might introduce the bill sooner rather than later after Chief Justice nominee John Roberts said during his confirmation hearings that he had not decided for or against cameras, though he had been advised by his nomination-process minder, Fred Thompson, that they wouldn't bite. Thompson is a former Senator and long-time TV and film actor.

"Because the Supreme Court of the United States holds power to decide cutting-edge questions on public policy, thereby effectively becoming a virtual 'super legislature,' the public has a right to know what the Supreme Court is doing," said Specter in a floor statement Monday. "And that right would be substantially enhanced by televising the oral arguments of the Court so that the public can see and hear the issues presented to the Court."

"Needless to say we support the bill and hope that it may have some momentum," said Radio-Television News Directors Association President Barbara Cochran."

She was in the midst of writing letters to Specter and other Senators offering RTNDA's help in making courtroom cameras a reality. Those senators included Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Charles Schumer 9D-N.Y.), who earlier introduced a bill to allow cameras in all federal courts.