Alito Vows Open Mind on TV in Court


Washington -- U.S. Judge Samuel Alito said Wednesday that he would keep an open mind about television coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court's oral arguments.

Alito, President Bush's choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, said that as a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, he supported TV coverage, but the majority of the court disagreed.

"I will keep an open mind despite the position I took on the Third Circuit," Alito added.

Alito was quizzed by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who has introduced legislation that would force the high court to televise its oral arguments except if doing so would compromise the due-process rights of a party.

The high court does not allow TV or radio coverage of its proceedings. Alito said that even though he supported TV coverage in the Third Circuit, he would not make the same commitment for the Supreme Court.

"The issue is a little bit different on the Supreme Court. It would be presumptuous for me to talk about it right now, particularly since at least one of the justices has said that a television camera would make its way into the Supreme Court courtroom over his dead body," Alito said, referring to comments by Justice David Souter years ago.

Alito, in his third day before the committee, said the Third Circuit debated TV coverage a few years ago when the court was granted authority to let in cameras.

"I argued that we should do it," he added. "This is one of the matters on which I ended up in dissent in my court."

C-SPAN, which is covering Alito's hearings live in their entirety, and Court TV have been leading cable's effort to televise the high court. Court TV supports Specter's bill while C-SPAN has declined to take a position.

No sitting Supreme Court justice has endorsed TV coverage. C-SPAN founder and CEO Brian Lamb said in a recent interview that former Justice William J. Brennan Jr. was a TV advocate.
Alito did not explain the Third Circuit's reason for rejecting cameras, joking, "I think the majority was fearful that our Nielsen numbers would be in the negative."