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Bill to televise Supreme Court hearings approved by Senate panel

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Thursday approved a bipartisan bill that would allow television coverage of all open US Supreme Court hearings. The Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2007 [S 352 text] would permit the Supreme Court [official website] to televise all open sessions, unless there is a majority vote amongst the justices that coverage in a particular case is determined to be a violation of the due process rights of any party. Eight Democrats and three Republicans voted for the bill, with a bipartisan group of seven senators - including leading California Democrat Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) - voting against. A date has not yet been set for a full Senate vote on the legislation. A broader proposal by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) to televise federal appellate and trial court proceedings was withdrawn in the face of heavy oppositon.

This is the second time such legislation has been endorsed by a Senate panel. In March 2006, the Senate Judiciary Committee under the leadership of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] approved an amendment to 28 USC 45 [text] that would have permitted Supreme Court proceedings to be televised [JURIST report], "unless the Court decides by a vote of the majority of justices, that allowing such coverage in a particular case would constitute a violation of the due process rights of one or more of the parties before the Court." The bill failed to pass the full Senate. This past October, Justice Samuel Alito publicly criticized [JURIST report] the possibility of televising the court's proceedings. Other justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas [JURIST reports], have also spoken publicly against allowing cameras [AP report] in the Supreme Court. A bill [HR 2128 text] identical to the Senate measure advanced Thursday has been proposed in the House of Representatives [official website] but has not been voted on there yet. CNN has more.

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