The Coalition for Court Transparency marked the 50th anniversary of the press freedom case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan by sending a to U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts urging him to take another historic action on behalf of press freedom by allowing for video broadcast of hearings at the High Court. “This Court has long supported the First Amendment presumption that court proceedings should be open to the public,” the letter says. “Greater openness” – such as broadcasting oral arguments – “fosters confidence in the judicial system and encourages dialogue about public issues.”
“Video would serve an important civic benefit, as it would be an incredible platform for legal education and future students of history, rhetoric and political science,” the coalition says. “As it stands now, only a few hundred individuals can fit into the courtroom at One First Street, so many people hoping to view the arguments are unable to, especially in cases that have broad public interest.” All 50 state supreme courts have more modern broadcasting guidelines than the U.S. Supreme Court, and the highest courts in several nations, including Canada and the United Kingdom, allow cameras to record their hearings. Justices who preside over courts that allow videotaping and broadcasting report that they have experienced few, if any, instances of grandstanding among the attorneys or their fellow justices – or of journalists using sound bites that do not accurately capture the proceedings. Concerned Americans may send their own letter to Chief Justice Roberts through the coalition website, OpenSCOTUS.com.