Televising Supreme Court and Other Federal Court Proceedings: Legislation and Issues Page: 19 of 23
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legislative prerogative to make the determination on televising the Supreme Court,
but he added, "Obviously, if the Supreme Court decides as a matter of separation of
powers that it is not a Congressional prerogative, we will not petition for a hearing.
That will be the judicial decision which we respect since Marbury v. Madison."41
Many proponents believe that televising Supreme Court and other federal court
proceedings would represent a natural progression from audiotaping to provide more
public access, resulting in greater transparency of court operations, and government
in general. Some further assert that the federal courts should be held to the same
standard as Congress, which has its sessions televised gavel-to-gavel (the House
since 1979, and the Senate since 1986). Senator Patrick J. Leahy (cosponsor of both
S. 1768 and S. 829) also said court proceedings should be open to the public.42
Speaking to advance his amendment to H.R. 1751, Representative Steve
Chabot, chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, noted
the following during committee markup of the bill:
The chambers of Congress are open to all citizens through the C-SPAN, as I
mentioned before, allowing the American people to stay apprised of the actions
of the Legislative Branch of Government. Why should the Judicial Branch be
any different? Lifetime tenure for unelected officials conveys a tremendous
amount of power. When the Supreme Court is in session, you can walk by and
see hundreds of people waiting for their opportunity to observe the judicial
process. Why should our constituents not be allowed to observe this process, and
why should people be forced to rely on the news media to interpret and filter the
proceedings when cameras would allow citizens to watch for
themselves?...Passage of this amendment would send a strong signal to the Chief
Justice, I believe that coverage of the Supreme Court proceedings is long
In remarks during introduction of his bill, H.R. 4380, to require the televising
of Supreme Court proceedings, Representative Ted Poe, one of the first Texas state
judges to allow cameras in the courtroom, said, "the more open and public a trial, the
more likely justice will occur. I found that cameras only enhance this concept." Of
Supreme Court proceedings, because of the magnitude of its rulings, he said,"these
proceedings above all others should be as open to the public as possible." He further
noted that Iraq is televising its trials, including the trial of Saddam Hussein.44
41 Ibid., p. 2. Marbury v. Madison was an 1803 landmark case that established the doctrine
of judicial review. In this case, the Supreme Court, for the first time, struck down an act of
Congress as unconstitutional, and established an important precedent for the Court's power
to determine the constitutionality of actions by the other two branches of government, and
its role as the chief interpreter of the Constitution.
42 Ibid., p. 7.
43 U.S. Congress, House Committee on the Judiciary, Secure Access to Justice and Court
Protection Act of 2005, report to accompany H.R. 1751, 109th Cong., 1St sess., H.Rept. 109-
271 (Washington: GPO), p. 113.
44 Rep. Ted Poe, "Film Supreme Court Proceedings," remarks in the House, Congressional
Record, daily edition, vol. 151 (Dec. 17, 2005), p. H12149.
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Televising Supreme Court and Other Federal Court Proceedings: Legislation and Issues, report, November 8, 2006; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc819885/m1/19/: accessed June 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.