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Klobuchar, Grassley reintroduce bill to allow TV cameras in courtrooms

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, reintroduced bipartisan legislation to expand the public's window into federal court processes and procedures by allowing television cameras in federal courtrooms.

The Sunshine in the Courtroom Act allows judges to permit media coverage of trial and appellate cases while ensuring appropriate due process safeguards and privacy protections for witnesses and jurors remain intact.

Klobuchar was honored with the Radio Television Digital News' First Amendment Defender Award—an award presented to an individual or organization for taking a public stand in support of press freedom and for making a point to champion press freedom and the First Amendment in their lives and careers.

"Our nation is stronger when the public can see how our institutions function and reach their decisions. The decisions made in courtrooms across our country impact the lives of every American. At a time when good journalism is more important than ever, allowing television cameras inside the courtroom would boost public confidence in government and contribute to a well-functioning democracy," Klobuchar stated in a news release.

The Sunshine in the Courtroom Act, grants the presiding judge in all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, the discretion to allow cameras in the courtroom while protecting the identities of witnesses and jurors when necessary or upon request. It also prohibits media coverage of private conversations between clients and counsel, between opposing attorneys, and between counsel and the presiding judge. The bill contains a three-year sunset provision, requiring Congress to evaluate how media access is impacting the judiciary.

All 50 states currently allow some form of audio/video coverage of court proceedings under a variety of rules and conditions, but federal court rules vary by district. Many federal courts, including the Supreme Court, prohibit the use of live media coverage. Public scrutiny of federal court proceedings will produce greater accountability and transparency of the judiciary system, the release stated.

Along with Klobuchar and Grassley, the bill is cosponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Ed Markey, D-Mass.