WASHINGTON, DC –Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have introduced bipartisan legislation to expand the public’s window into federal court processes and procedures by allowing cameras in federal courtrooms. The Sunshine in the Courtroom Act allows judges to permit media coverage of trial and appellate cases while ensuring appropriate due process safeguards and privacy protections for witnesses and jurors remain intact.
“Today, you can watch what’s happening on the Senate floor on C-SPAN or city council meetings on Facebook Live, but you can’t see the proceedings of a federal courtroom on TV. That doesn’t make sense, especially when the decisions made in those courtrooms seriously affect the lives of everyday Americans,” said Klobuchar. “By allowing cameras in federal courtrooms, our bipartisan bill will help increase transparency and boost public confidence in our democracy.”
The Sunshine in the Courtroom Act grants the presiding judge in all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, the discretion to allow cameras in the courtroom while protecting the identities of witnesses and jurors when necessary or upon request. It also prohibits media coverage of private conversations between clients and counsel, between opposing attorneys, and between counsel and the presiding judge. The bill contains a three-year sunset provision, requiring Congress to evaluate how media access is impacting the judiciary.
All 50 states currently allow some form of audio/video coverage of court proceedings under a variety of rules and conditions, however federal court rules vary by district. Many federal courts, including the Supreme Court, prohibit the use of live media coverage. Public scrutiny of federal court proceedings will produce greater accountability and transparency of the judiciary system.
Klobuchar and Grassley’s bill is cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ed Markey (D-MA).###