The US Supreme Court will not allow cameras from for oral arguments on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul but will release audio recordings and written transcripts.
The court announced Friday it would follow tradition in prohibitingvideo coverage of its proceedings, opting instead to release daily audio and written transcripts immediately after arguments, scheduled for March 26-28.
It provided no explanation for its decision, though the highest court in the land has never allowed cameras into its courtroom.
“Because of the extraordinary public interest in those cases, the court will provide the audio recordings and transcripts of the oral arguments on an expedited basis through the court’s website,” it said in a statement, adding that the transcripts should be available in the afternoon on each day.
Lawmakers had argued that the significance of the sweeping reforms largely opposed by Republicans — and a landmark initiative for Obama, a Democrat — meant that both audio and video coverage should be allowed. The outcome of the proceedings could play a role in November’s presidential elections.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, said the court’s decision was a “step forward,” albeit incomplete.
“I continue to support live audio streaming and permitting cameras in our nation’s courtrooms, including in the Supreme Court, so that Americans can witness these public proceedings as they happen,” he added.
Senator Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the panel, said “every American should have the opportunity to see and hear this landmark case as it plays out, not just the select few allowed in the courtroom. The health care reform law has ramifications for the entire country.”
“Video coverage would help with the public’s understanding of not only the controversial new law, but also the American judicial system,” he added, criticizing Chief Justice John Roberts’s “disappointing” decision.
C-SPAN, the television network that has covered federal government proceedings for decades, said it was “disappointed that the court has rejected C-SPAN’s request for TV camera coverage of the oral arguments in this landmark case.”
“We continue to believe allowing video coverage of Supreme Court oral arguments is in the public’s best interest,” it added.