RTDNA and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force applaud Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Democratic member Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) for their renewed efforts to bring more transparency to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a June 29 letter to Chief Justice John Roberts, Grassley and Leahy urged Roberts to make the same-day release of oral arguments before the court routinely available to the public, something the court has traditionally done only in high-profile cases.
Most recently the court allowed the same-day release of audio recording of arguments in Trump v. Hawaii, in which the court ultimately ruled 5-4 to uphold, and return the case to lower courts for further consideration, President Trump’s executive order banning travel to the U.S. by immigrants from seven mostly Muslim nations.
As Grassley and Leahy stated in their letter:
By releasing same-day audio recordings of all oral arguments, the Court has a unique opportunity to open up its proceedings beyond the select few who will ever have the chance to be physically present during arguments. Most importantly [sic], the American public will grow in its appreciation of – and confidence in – the rule of law that safeguards our constitutional system.
“RTDNA, on behalf of the nation’s broadcast and digital journalists, applauds Sens. Grassley and Leahy for their request to the U.S. Supreme Court to release the audio recordings of oral arguments routinely on a same-day basis,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Executive Director. “We further call upon the court to allow live audio and video transmission of all open sessions of our nation’s highest judicial body,” he added.
As Shelley wrote in May, it was RTDNA – then known as RTNDA – that first compelled the Supreme Court to release same-day audio recordings to the public, in the December 2000 Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board case that ultimately decided the outcome of that year’s presidential election. Then-RTNDA President Barbara Cochran had requested live television and radio coverage, but Chief Justice William Rehnquist allowed only audio recordings.
The practice has been continued by Roberts, Rehnquist’s successor, but, as Sens. Grassley and Leahy note, only in select cases.
Grassley and Leahy have a long history of advocating for live broadcast coverage of federal courts, up to and including the Supreme Court. In 2004, RTDNA’s foundation honored the senators with its First Amendment Leadership Award, which is presented annually to “a business or government leader or other individual who has made a significant contribution to the protection of the First Amendment and freedom of the press.”
RTDNA formed the nonpartisan Voice of the First Amendment Task Force to defend against threats to the First Amendment and news media access, and to help the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives. RTDNA is a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the archive of record for threats against press freedom in America. Reach out to RTDNA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.