Supreme exposure

TV coverage of high court looks likely

The Senate Judiciary Committee has passed a bill allowing TV coverage of the Supreme Court. The 12-6 six vote was a victory for Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), the committee chairman who sponsored the bill.

Vote is also “a great step forward,” according to Henry Schleiff, chairman-CEO of Court TV, which has long thought auds would like to tune in to the country’s highest court.

“We think the committee has accurately reflected the will of the people, who are very anxious to see and hear their third form of government with their own eyes and ears,” Schleiff said.

But Schleiff isn’t assembling camera crews just yet; the full Senate must pass the bill. Most important, the bill allows the court to bar cameras if five or more justices feel their presence would negatively affect the rights of either party in a proceeding.

The court’s two newest members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. — have indicated they’re open to the presence of cameras.

“Because the Supreme Court of the United States holds the power to decide cutting-edge questions on public policy, thereby effectively becoming a virtual ‘super legislature,’ the public has a right to know what the Supreme Court is doing,” Specter said in a statement. “This legislation embodies sound policy and will prove to be both educational and valuable to the public.”

It will likely prove profitable, too, at least for certain nets. “We’re not going to cover every proceeding,” Schleiff said, “but on issues like a woman’s right to choose or basic civil rights or, as we saw not long ago, the selection of the president of the United States, whether as entertainment or information, it’s important for people to see those things.”

A spokesman for the court declined to comment.