Two Senators Push Courtroom Camera Bill

The legislation would give federal judges discretion to allow cameras or other types of electronic media access to courtrooms.

by / March 7, 2003
WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) -- Two senators are trying again to get television cameras inside federal courtrooms, saying it would lead to a better understanding of the federal judiciary.

Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday their bill would not require that federal judges allow cameras into their courtrooms. Instead, it would give judges discretion to allow cameras or other electronic media access if they see fit, the senators said.

Federal courts currently do not allow cameras.

"The best way to maintain confidence in our federal judiciary, which has tremendous power, is to let the sun shine in by allowing judges to exercise their discretion in opening federal courtrooms to public view through the broadcasting and televising of judicial proceedings," said Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance committee.

The bill would protect the privacy and safety of witnesses by giving them the right to have their faces and voices obscured.

Opponents have argued that courtroom cameras increase sensationalism in the trials, entice lawyers into arguing for the cameras and do little to educate the public about their courts.

But "courts are government agencies. The more the public knows about how the government works, the better," Schumer said. "If there are flaws in our governing institutions, including our courts, we hide them only at our peril."

Forty-seven states currently permit some form of audio-video coverage in their courtrooms and at least 37 directly televise trials, the senators said.

Grassley and Schumer have been trying to get a version of this bill passed for years.

Copyright 2003. Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.