Currently, to attend Supreme Court hearings, individuals must stand in line outside the building and wait to be ushered in. There are roughly 400 seats in the courtroom, only a fraction of which are available to the public. That means countless Americans hoping to view the arguments are unable to, especially in cases that have broad public interest, such as the marriage equality, Obamacare, voting rights, and affirmative action cases in recent terms. For these types of cases, interested citizens must often line up hours, if not days, in advance of the arguments. In some instances they have to compete with “line-standers” whose employers have been paid thousands of dollars to hold a powerful or wealthy person’s place in line.
Despite the Supreme Court’s own reluctance on cameras, Americans have greater access to high-level judicial hearings elsewhere in the country. All 50 state supreme courts permit recording equipment to varying degrees, and on the federal level the Judicial Conference of the United States has placed cameras in 14 federal courts as part of a three-year, multi-district pilot program to study the effect of broadcasting federal court proceedings.
While Congress has debated legislation intended to compel Supreme Court justices to allow cameras over the last 15 years, legal experts agree that the justices could simply decide today to allow cameras. In the past, C-SPAN officials have stated that the network would broadcast all of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments if allowed.
We hope you’ll sign our petition and join our call for greater transparency at the Supreme Court by allowing cameras to broadcast its oral arguments.