The U.S. Senate introduced legislation in December that would authorize the televising of Supreme Court oral arguments, but the bill has gone nowhere. On Wednesday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on the Senate to approve the bill. “Accountability doesn’t end with Congress or the President,” she said in a statement.
In a New York Times opinion, Andrew Rosenthal concurs with her statement that the public has a right to see and hear oral arguments, but says she and other senators sponsoring the legislation are in a “bad position” to make demands of a federal court.
Justice Anthony Kennedy has argued against the law requiring televised oral arguments, saying it would violate the constitutional separation of power. Rosenthal says that Congress has the constitutional authority to make “regulations” affecting the court’s jurisdiction, suggesting that this gives Congress the power to require televised arguments.
However, Rosenthal says that the Senate’s demands show a “shockingly low level of respect for the judiciary.” He cites the currently “drawn-out” process for judicial nominees as an example. Rosenthal goes on to mention that Congress has denied cost-of-living salary increases for federal judges throughout the last two decades.
When Congress starts to treat the judiciary like a co-equal branch of government, it will be in a better position to demand televised oral arguments, he says.