03.06.08

Committee Approves Legislation Allowing Cameras In The Courtroom

WASHINGTON (Thursday, March 6, 2008) – The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday passed legislation to provide the public with more access inside their Federal courtrooms.  Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a long time supporter of government transparency, helped to usher the bill through the Committee.

Federal courts lag behind all 50 state judiciaries, which have all allowed some form of audio or video coverage of court proceedings.  Many Americans are unable to travel to witness some of the most important public arguments and actions of our Federal judiciary, including attending proceedings at the nation’s 13 appellate courts and the Supreme Court.  The Sunshine in the Courtroom Act (S. 352), passed by the Committee today, would help increase public access through emerging technologies.

“The American people are invited into the chambers of the United States Senate and House of Representatives and they are often welcomed into the White House, all through the lens of a camera,” said Leahy.  “Why should they not be invited into our Courts, where decisions affecting their lives are made daily?  Open government is good government, and the legislation passed by the Judiciary Committee today shines necessary light into our Federal courts.”

The legislation would give authority to presiding judges to permit – or restrict – the recording, broadcasting, televising or photographing of court proceedings.  The bill would also provide for the disguise or obscuring of witnesses and other parties upon request, and would prohibit the televising of jurors in trial proceedings.

The legislation was passed by the Committee 10-8.  One Member passed.  The bill will now be reported to the full Senate for consideration. 

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