Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Chuck Grassley have a bill to allow cameras in the Supreme Court
Neil Gorsuch is being questioned in the Senate Judiciary Committee for a second day Thursday
Neil Gorsuch said Tuesday he approaches the question of allowing cameras in the Supreme Court with an “open mind,” but said he has not given the idea much thought and would like to hear all the arguments.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, asked the Supreme Court nominee his position on the topic in the second day of his confirmation hearings.
“Only a few people can get in there, yet the decisions affect everyone in America,” Klobuchar said, referring to Supreme Court arguments.
“Even just last month, 1.5 million Americans tuned into CNN’s broadcast when the 9th Circuit heard arguments challenging the President’s refugee and travel ban,” she continued.
A member of the Judiciary Committee, Klobuchar teamed up with committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to reintroduce a bill last week that would allow cameras in the courtroom. The bill has bipartisan support from other members on the committee.
Congress has attempted passing similar legislation in previous sessions but without success, in large part because many Supreme Court justices have expressed opposition.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in 2015 that cameras might cause justices and lawyers succumb to “this temptation to use it as a stage rather than a courtroom,” according to The Washington Post. And Justice Elena Kagan – who, like Sotomayor, had previously shown more openness to the idea – also said two years ago that she was cautious about the effects “that may upset the dynamic of the institution.”
In a 2008 appearance before Congress reported by ABC News, Justice Anthony Kennedy urged lawmakers to not introduce “that insidious dynamic into what is now a collegial court.”
“If you introduce cameras, it is human nature for me to suspect from time to time that one of my colleagues is saying something for a sound bite,” he also said.
Federal appeals courts already have more lenient standards than the Supreme Court, which is why the 9th Circuit was able to broadcast the arguments over the President’s executive order on immigration last month. (The arguments were conducted over the phone, however, so viewers mostly just heard audio).
Proponents argue cameras would create transparency as well as educational opportunities for the public.
“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 in a statement last week announcing the bill.
The Grassley-Klobuchar bill would allow the presiding judge in all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, to decide whether to permit cameras. The identities of witnesses and jurors would be protected if necessary or if requested, according to the bill.
Furthermore, private conversations in the courtroom would not be televised. The bill states that Congress would revisit the law’s impact on the judiciary three years after going into effect.