RTDNA Asks SCOTUS To Televise Obamacare Argument

WASHINGTON: The Radio, Television Digital News Association is petitioning the U. S. Supreme Court to allow cameras in the courtroom when during arguments in March 2012 over President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law.

RTDNA joins with C-SPAN in the request to allow courtroom coverage in the case involving the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148). The Supreme Court said Nov. 14, it would hear arguments in the cases National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, No. 11-393; U. S. Department of Health & Human Services v. Florida, No. 11-398; and Florida v. U. S. Department of Health & Human Services, No. 11-400, reserving more than five hours on the docket for those arguments (most cases receive an hour). The court has never allowed the arguments to be televised; rather it releases transcripts for every case and audio recordings of high-profile arguments.

However, in a Nov. 15 letter to Chief Justice John Roberts C-SPAN said, “the court’s decision to schedule five-and-half hours of argument indicates the significance of this case. We ask that the court further reflect this particular case’s significance by supplementing your ‘end of the week audiocast’ policy with live TV coverage.”

The following day, RTDNA Chairman Kevin Benz sent a letter to Chief Justice Roberts asking for the court “to provide pooled television and audio coverage of the oral arguments in this case.” Benz said the case is an opportunity for the court to open up to cameras. “The Court’s ruling undoubtedly will shape the 2012 presidential campaign and most certainly will serve to define Congress’ ability to address national issues… there is no better time than in anticipation of this watershed case for the Supreme Court justices to suspend the ban on cameras in the courtroom and to allow live electronic coverage of this and other proceedings of keen interest and import to the American public.”

By suspending the ban on television cameras, the court would open up its proceedings to the American public, the letter said. Currently, the number of people who witness the proceedings is limited to the number of people who can fit into the court.

“As this Court long has recognized, the physical space limitations of a particular courtroom and geographic and other limitations on the public’s ability to personally attend judicial proceedings validate the media’s claim that it acts as a surrogate for the public in providing access to those proceedings,” the letter says. “While both print and electronic media fulfill that important surrogate role, only the electronic media has the ability to provide the public with a close visual and aural approximation of actually witnessing judicial proceedings without physical attendance.”

The court would “provide unlimited seating to this historic event by permitting television coverage of the oral arguments,” RTDNA said. However, if television coverage is denied, the association asks the court to “permit real-time audio broadcast of the proceedings.” ~ Government Video