"Eyes on the Courts Act 2020" reintroduced to The House today

Date: 
01/17/2020
MikeQuigley

U.S. Representative Mike Quigley

In the midst of unprecedented activity going on in and around the Federal government, four bipartisan U.S. Representatives reintroduced a bill to require cameras in all Supreme Court and Federal Appellate Court proceedings. Mike Quigley, 5th District, U.S. House of Representatives, was among them sponsoring the Eyes on the Courts Act 2020 bill.

"At a time when faith in our institutions is at an all-time low and government transparency is critically important, the judiciary remains incredibly opaque. Greater public access to federal courts would provide significant historical and educational value and increase accountability among the judicial system," said Congressman Quigley. "This legislation provides appeals courts with multiple options for how to broadcast their proceedings ensuring that court business is not interrupted but increasing access for the public."

"Transparency is essential to our democracy, yet the vast majority of Americans cannot witness our federal court system in action because these proceedings are not televised or streamed," said U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York. "The proceedings before our federal court system are far too important to be accessible only to those able to travel to federal courts, and for important cases, to wait in long lines simply for the opportunity to get in." 

Representative Gerry Connolly from Virginia said, "The Supreme Court is not some mystical, druidic priesthood that periodically deigns to review constitutional issues and hand down their wisdom from on high. It is a human institution, a co-equal branch of government, and it is long overdue that the American public has better access to their highest court. This bill will help bring the Court into the 21st century." 

The Bill's fourth sponsor, Ohio's Representative Steve Chabot said, "In an age where new technological breakthroughs are made every day and nearly every item imaginable can be accessed via a quick internet search, it is inconceivable that access to federal courts would be strictly limited to those Americans who have the time and ability to personally visit a courthouse.

"A thriving democracy depends on a well-informed public, and by allowing cameras into federal appellate courtrooms, this legislation will provide the critical transparency and access the American people need to better understand and follow some of the most important issues shaping our present and our future."
 
Gabe Roth, Fix the Court's Executive Director, pointed out that the current "window" on court actions will have next week's impeachment trial broadcast live, while this week's Supreme Court arguments have yet to be released.
 
"The work of the Supreme Court and other federal appeals courts has broad implications for the country, and real-time access to their proceedings ought not be limited to the few who can travel to a courthouse and spend hours waiting to get in. I applaud Chairman Nadler and Reps. Chabot, Quigley and Connolly for the leadership in promoting judicial transparency," he said.
 
"Sunlight is the best disinfectant and the American people deserve to have access to the proceedings of the federal courts in the full light of day," said Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, Policy Analyst at the Project on Government Oversight. "For too long, the Supreme Court and circuit courts have largely kept us in the dark and restricted access to their proceedings, even in the context of controversial and consequential rulings on the weightiest issues of the day. This bipartisan legislation would open up the process and allow the public to see how the federal courts operate in real-time, just as we can do with Congress. We applaud the sponsors of this bill and urge the rest of Congress to consider the bill for passage this year."
 
While the Eyes on the Courts Act 2020 bill requires cameras be allowed in all Supreme Court and Federal Appellate court proceedings, a presiding judge could close the proceedings if he deemed that cameras would violate the due process rights of a party or it would otherwise not be in the interests of justice to allow them.
 
The bill does not include Federal District courts, where there may be separate privacy concerns when it comes to witnesses and jurors. It only applies to appellate courts with highly trained attorneys and judges, tackling some of the most critical legal issues of the day.
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