U.S. Supreme Court

Specter Says Chances Are Good for Bill to Televise Oral Arguments


Congress may soon pass a bill to televise the Supreme Court’s oral arguments, a backer says, but that doesn’t mean the justices will go along with it.

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who lost a Democratic primary election in May, tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that “I’ve got a good chance to get this legislation passed.” Televising arguments has been an issue for Specter for more than a decade, the newspaper says, and he has made it a focus during his final months in the Senate.

Even if the legislation is passed and signed into law, the Supreme Court is likely to strike it down, Supreme Court journalist Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog told the Post-Gazette. The justification would be that the law violates separation of powers.

“I don’t think that the court would any more follow Congress’ guidance on this than the Senate would if the court were to tell the Senate it couldn’t hold public hearings on Supreme Court nominations,” he said.

Denniston suggested a different courtroom-cameras scenario that could get a better reception at the Supreme Court. If a TV network were to ask and be denied access to oral arguments, it could sue for an alleged First Amendment violation. Denniston told the newspaper there is some precedent supporting a right of access.

“I imagine [Specter, a lawyer] will go back into private practice” when he leaves the Senate, Denniston said. “He could fashion that lawsuit himself.”

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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