Connolly Leads Bipartisan Letter Urging SCOTUS to Provide Live Audio for Oral Arguments on Partisan Redistricting

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Washington, September 29, 2017 | comments

Today, Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Judge Ted Poe (R-TX), Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) sent a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts urging the Supreme Court to provide a live audio recording of the upcoming partisan redistricting case, Gill v. Whitford. Connolly and Poe are coauthors of the Cameras in the Court Act, legislation which would require the Supreme Court to televise open proceedings. The Cameras in the Court Act was introduced in January.

“This case will impact every voter in our country, yet less than 50 seats will be available to the public,” said Congressman Connolly. “The Supreme Court is not some mystical priesthood. The public is right to demand transparency, particularly in a case as important and consequential as partisan redistricting. In today’s digital age, it strains credulity that this modest effort at transparency would prove impossible or somehow inhibit the ability of our Justices to hear cases in a fair manner.”

“In the past 17 years, the Court has released same-day audio for 26 cases with heightened public interest. This case undoubtedly meets that bar,” the members wrote.

“Broadcasting live video of open proceedings before the Court, as called for in the Cameras in the Courtroom Act (H.R. 464), would also ensure transparency and accountability in the judicial branch. We urge the Court to consider televising all oral arguments to increase public transparency and improve understanding of its proceedings,” they added.

The Supreme Court currently allocates roughly 50 seats for the general public to witness cases. This significantly limits the public and the media to one-dimensional and sometimes distorted views of the Justices’ actions.

The Members note that state and federal courts, including all 50 state supreme courts, already allow recording equipment of various degrees. In addition, several Justices have already voiced their support for allowing cameras in the courtroom, and 72 percent of adults from across the political spectrum support it, according to a recent Gallup/USA Today poll.

Full text of the letter follows and is available here.

 

Dear Chief Justice Roberts:

We write to urge the Supreme Court of the United States to provide a live audio recording of the case 16-1161, Gill v. Whitford on the Court’s website on October 3.

In the past 17 years, the Court has released same-day audio for 26 cases with heightened public interest. This case undoubtedly meets that bar. The Court also has the technical capability to livestream audio from its courtroom, as was done for the November 2016 special session of the Supreme Court Bar honoring Justice Scalia.

Broadcasting live video of open proceedings before the Court, as called for in the Cameras in the Courtroom Act (H.R. 464), would also ensure transparency and accountability in the judicial branch. We urge the Court to consider televising all oral arguments to increase public transparency and improve understanding of its proceedings.

Livestreaming audio of the Gill v. Whitford proceedings would be a laudable step forward in the path toward full transparency. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Best Regards,

 

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