The top lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee have joined the chorus of organizations requesting that the Supreme Court allow live broadcast coverage of the upcoming announcement of its historic health care decisions.
Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts today, which states that the broadcast would bolster public confidence in the judicial system and in the court's decisions.
"Modem technology makes televising the proceedings simple and unobtrusive," the senators wrote. "A minimal number of cameras in the courtroom, which could be placed to be barely noticeable to all participants, would provide live coverage of what may be one of the most historic rulings of our time."
The Court should be aware of the great interest Americans have in the outcome of this case, the Senators said, "given the fundamental constitutional questions raised and the effects the decision will have."
Leahy and Grassley attended arguments in the case earlier this year. Both are longtime advocates of allowing broadcast coverage of federal court proceedings, and they support allowing camera coverage of Supreme Court proceedings.
The exact date of the decision is of course unknown. The Court announced last week that justices would be sitting on Thursday to issue decisions, and several sittings are also expected next 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.
Last week, a coalition of news organizations asked for the same live broadcast. The letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press points out that the concerns expressed by some justices about broadcasting oral arguments — such as the possibility that it would change 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.
Among the media organizations joining in last week’s letter 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.
A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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.