Televising Supreme Court and Other Federal Court Proceedings: Legislation and Issues Page: 6 of 23
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subject of televising Supreme Court proceedings, and would benefit from the views
of his colleagues. On July 13, 2006, Chief Justice Roberts, appearing at the 2006
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' Judicial Conference, was asked which he thought the
public would see first - the televising of a federal civil jury trial or a Supreme Court
proceeding. The Chief Justice replied as follows:
That's a tough question. In either case, there's a concern about the impact of
television on the functioning of the institution, both the civil trial and the
Supreme Court argument....All of the Justices view themselves as trustees of an
extremely valuable institution, one that we think by and large functions pretty
well. The oral argument is a valuable and important part of that, and we're going
to be very careful before we do anything that will have an adverse impact on that,
and I think that same perspective applies to the civil trials. I appreciate very
much the argument that the public would benefit greatly from seeing how we do
He also said that the expedited release of audio recordings of oral arguments in
a number of cases this year has had a generally positive effect because "people are
learning a little about how the Supreme Court functions." However, the Chief Justice
also expressed some reservations:
We don't have oral arguments to show people, the public, how we function. We
have them to learn about a particular case in a particular way that we think is
important, so that's certainly something that we have to look at very carefully,
in the same token that I think the Judicial Conference has to look at very
carefully when it comes to civil trials as well.8
District Courts and Courts of Appeals9
Television and other electronic media coverage of federal district (trial) court
proceedings is prohibited in criminal cases under current federal rules, and for civil
and criminal proceedings under the policy of the Judicial Conference of the United
States. Since 1946, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 53 has prohibited the district
courts from allowing the taking of photographs in the courtroom during these judicial
proceedings, or the broadcasting of the proceedings from the courtroom.10
8 Based on audio file provided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. See also David
Kravets, "Chief Justice Says No to Televising Supreme Court," Associated Press, July 17,
2006, available at [http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1152867928601].
9 There are 94 judicial districts organized into 12 regional circuits. Each circuit has a U.S.
court of appeals which hears appeals from the district courts located within its circuit, and
also appeals from decisions of federal administrative agencies. There is also a Court of
Appeals for the Federal Circuit with nationwide jurisdiction, which hears appeals in
specialized cases (e.g., cases such as those involving patent laws decided by the Court of
International Trade and the Court of Federal Claims).
10 See [http://judiciary.house.gov/media/pdfs/printers/109th/crim2005.pdf] for the text of
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 53. The Supreme Court promulgated and amended the
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure pursuant to law, and the rules also have been amended
by acts of Congress.
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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/m1/6/: accessed June 25, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.