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Senate Judiciary Committee clears bill to allow TV cameras in Supreme Court

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Thursday approved by a 12-6 vote S. 1768 [PDF], an amendment to 28 USC 45 [text] that would permit Supreme Court proceedings to be televised, "unless the Court decides by a vote of the majority of justices, that allowing such coverage in a particular case would constitute a violation of the due process rights of 1 or more of the parties before the Court." An identical bill [text] is in the House Judiciary Committee.

Judiciary Committee chairman and bill sponsor Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] said in a statement [text] that because the Supreme Court "holds the power to decide cutting-edge questions on public policy... the public had a right to know what the Supreme Court is doing." The Committee Thursday also approved 10-6 S. 829, the so-called Sunshine in the Courtroom Act [text] which would allow federal trial and appellate judges to permit cameras in the courtroom. The approvals follow a November committee hearing where Senators heard extensive testimony [witness statements] on the subject.

Although Chief Justice John Roberts said during his confirmation hearing last fall that he would remain open-minded on the question of cameras in courts, other justices, including Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and David Souter have spoken publicly against allowing cameras [AP report] in the Supreme Court, pointing out that the Court's decisional process is on paper and suggesting that court proceedings should not be considered "entertainment." AP has more.

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