Specter wants Supreme Court open to cameras

No stranger to the spotlight himself, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) is calling for the Supreme Court to share the stage -- by opening up proceedings to television cameras.

"The Court is a public institution and should be available to all Americans, not just the select few who can travel to Washington," Specter wrote in the National Law Journal, calling called for greater transparency from the the judicial branch, and putting the argument in populist terms.

Specter admitted that the move might bring the Court down to earth, but felt the move would increase its profile.

"Retaining the majesty and mystery of the Supreme Court as an institution may, at first blush, counsel against admitting television cameras," he said. "Yet it is only through observation of that venerable institution that an educated public can truly appreciate its significance."

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has voiced support for the idea in her testimony to Congress, citing "positive experiences" with the working arrangement. Specter also noted that The U.S. would not be alone in making the move: the United Kingdom's newly-established Supreme Court will broadcast its proceedings when it opens in October.

In line with his emphasis on duty and accountability, Specter also sharply criticized the court for a decline in the number of cases it has decided in recent years. He wrote that "this shrinking output is hampering the Court's role and function under the Constitution."

Specter has some standing on the issue, as he was formerly the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. Specter lost his seniority in his party switch from the Republicans to the Democrats earlier this year.

-Eric Messinger

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