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Key Democrat urges Supreme Court to livestream oral arguments

Key Democrat urges Supreme Court to livestream oral arguments
© Greg Nash

A House Democrat overseeing the federal judiciary's budget is urging Chief Justice John Roberts to start livestreaming the Supreme Court's proceedings so that the public can have greater access to important arguments.

Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyWomack to replace Graves on Financial Services subcommittee Preventing next pandemic requires new bill's global solutions Democrats introduce legislation to revise FDA requirements for LGBT blood donors MORE (D-Ill.), who chairs a House Appropriations subcommittee on government services, sent a letter to Roberts on Tuesday asking him to make the court more transparent.

"The most powerful court in the land, making dramatically important decisions for everyone in this country, should not be among the few left that do not provide access made possible by readily available technology," Quigley wrote. "As we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century, there remain neither practical nor principled barriers to allowing the public to view Supreme Court proceedings via the Internet."

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The Supreme Court's public information representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The high court has long resisted efforts to allow cameras in its courtroom or to broadcast live audio. While it often posts audio and transcripts of high-profile oral arguments shortly after they've concluded, critics believe it's unacceptable that the public cannot follow along in real time.

Last year, Justices Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoSupreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline Supreme Court won't fast-track GOP bid to block Pennsylvania mail ballot extension 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem MORE and Elena KaganElena KaganBarrett to use Supreme Court chambers previously used by Ruth Bader Ginsburg Justice Barrett's baptism by fire: Protecting the integrity of elections Supreme Court rejects Democrats' bid to reinstate mail-in ballot extension in Wisconsin MORE, who sit on opposite ends of the court's ideological spectrum, both argued before Quigley's subcommittee that it would be a bad idea to open up oral arguments to cameras.

“Lawyers would find it irresistible to try to put in a little sound bite in the hope of being that evening on CNN or Fox or MSNBC on one of the broadcast networks, and that would detract from the value of the arguments in the decision-making process,” Alito said.

“I don’t think all that many people would grandstand. I hope that my colleagues and I would not do that. But I think we might filter ourselves in ways that might be unfortunate,” Kagan added.

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“I challenge people in ways that might sound as though I have views on things that I in fact do not, just because that’s the best way of really understanding the pros and cons of a case.”

But Quigley argued on Monday that the court's opaque proceedings are at odds with the rest of the government's efforts at transparency.

"The right to open court must keep pace with the times," he wrote. "You recently invited members of Congress to observe oral arguments at the Court. I encourage you and your fellow justices to extend that invitation to the American people in ways that technology now make commonplace. The country, the Constitution, and the judiciary would be better for it."