A coalition of news organizations is asking the Supreme Court to permit live broadcast coverage of the upcoming announcement of its historic health care decisions.
In a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. dated today, the group wrote, "There is a strong interest nationwide in the Court’s opinion and any comments by a member of the Court that may accompany its announcement. Such access would allow the public to be informed of the Court’s ruling in a timely manner."
The letter points out that the concerns expressed by some justices about broadcasting oral arguments -- such as changing the dynamics between lawyers and justices -- would not be at issue in broadcasting the mere announcement by justices of a summary of their own opinions.
The author of the letter is Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Among the media organizations joining in the appeal are ALM Media, publisher of The National Law Journal and this blog, as well as C-SPAN, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA TODAY, NPR, ABC, CBS and NBC.
The exact date of the decision is of course unknown. The Court announced today it would be sitting on Monday and Thursday of next week to issue decisions, and several sittings are also expected the following week, at the end of which the Court is likely to adjourn for the summer. But the Court never lets it be known in advance which decisions will be issued on which days.
A similar media coalition asked the Court last November for broadcast access to the historic health care oral arguments spread over three days in late March. As a fallback, the media groups asked that the Court expedite release of the audio of the arguments. The Court's current practice is to release the audio of oral arguments at the end of the week in which they occur, thereby limiting their news value. The Court acceded to the request regarding the audio, releasing the argument tapes on a same-day basis. The audio from the health care cases was widely used by the media and by partisan groups highlighting different segments of the arguments.
Today's letter includes a similar fallback position, asking that if live coverage is not allowed, the audio of the opinion announcement be released soon after it occurs. (Disclosure: The author of this blog post is chair of the Reporters Committee's executive committee.)