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U.S. Supreme Ct: Time for Cameras in Nation's Highest Court

Reporter's Committee Joins Coalition For Court Transparancy

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has joined the Coalition for Court Transparency (CCT), a group of media and legal organizations focused on urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow live video of oral arguments.

(To sign the petition, go here)

Dear Chief Justice John Roberts,

The Supreme Court's decisions impact the lives of Americans everywhere.

Unfortunately, only a privileged few get to witness history and see justice in action by attending oral arguments.

Leaders of both parties, joined by a large majority of Americans, support an alternative – allowing cameras in the Supreme Court.
State and federal courts allow cameras in the interest of transparency and giving the people access to their government. We urge the nation's top court do the same.

I hope you will heed our call for a more open judiciary and make the Court more accessible to every American by allowing cameras to broadcast oral arguments. Additional exposure to the high quality of the debates that takes place daily before the Supreme Court can only enhance the Court's stature and the public's knowledge, understanding and esteem for the Court.

In conjunction with CCT’s announcement, comes the launch of a 30-second television ad titled “Everywhere,” that will run some 300 times in the Washington, D.C., market on cable news outlets including CNBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC through March 10. The ad can be viewed on the newly launched OpenSCOTUS.com website, where people can join a petition to Chief Justice John Roberts urging him to open the Court to camera coverage.

“When you think about the most widely followed cases of the last year, litigants hailed from California (Hollingsworth v. Perry), Oklahoma (Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius) and Alabama (Shelby Co. v. Holder),” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee. “The idea that these individuals, and other concerned parties from across the country, would have to fly to Washington, find a hotel, and stand in line for hours – or pay someone to do so – just to see justice in action shows how far the Court needs to come to get more in step with technology and transparency today.”

Currently, those who want to see U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments have to wait in line at the Court, sometimes days in advance, and hope to secure one of the 400 seats available. For arguments with wide public interest, line goers often are turned away although, in some cases, they may pay thousands of dollars for “line standers” to hold a place for them.

The Reporters Committee repeatedly has urged the Court to allow live audio and/or video in the past, most recently for the arguments regarding health care reform. Despite a letter from the Reporters Committee and 46 news organizations arguing for the overwhelming public interest, the Court rejected the request – although it did agree to expedite release of same-day audio recordings.

Some 15 years of congressional efforts to open the Court to live audio and video have been similarly unsuccessful.

In addition to the Reporters Committee, members of the Coalition for Court Transparency include: Alliance for Justice, American Society of News Editors, Constitutional Accountability Center, Liberty Coalition, National Association of Broadcasters, National Press Foundation, National Press Photographers Association, OpenTheGovernment.org, Radio Television Digital News Association and Society for Professional Journalists.

The ads are being supported by the New Venture Fund, a non-profit foundation that underwrites public-interest projects. Its mission is to foster change through strategic philanthropy.

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