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Cady touts value of courtroom cameras

Iowa Chief Justice gives testimony to U.S. Senate in D.C.

December 7, 2011
Messenger News


Messenger staff writer

United States senators pondering the use of cameras in the nation's highest court heard Tuesday from a jurist with years of experience with such media coverage Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, of Fort Dodge.

Cady testified before the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts in Washington, D.C., as the panel talked about televising the U.S. Supreme Court.

In his remarks, Cady explained that Iowa has allowed cameras in the courtooms since 1979. He also described how all oral arguments before the Iowa Supreme Court have been recorded for viewing online since 2006. Starting this year, he said, the court has had live online streaming of those arguments.

He told the senators that the presence of cameras has never caused a problem.

''We don't even see the cameras,'' he said. ''We don't even remember they are in the courtroom. We go about doing our business the same.''

Cameras, he said, don't reduce the judge's ability to control the courtroom.

''We've had cameras in our Supreme Court proceedings since 2006,'' he said. ''I can cite no example where in any way the decision-making of the court has been altered by the presence of a camera.''

In a phone interview late Tuesday afternoon, Cady described his experience in the nation's capital as ''very unique and interesting.''

''It was just a real positive experience and an opportunity to tell the country about our positive experience with cameras in the courtroom in Iowa,'' he said.

Cady was asked to testify by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican who has long advocated allowing cameras in federal courtrooms. Grassley and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., have introduced a bill that would require open proceedings of the U.S. Supreme Court to be televised.

Grassley has also asked U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts to allow audio and video coverage of the court's hearings on the health care reform law next year.

In his opening statement to the senators, Cady said videos of court proceedings help the public understand how the justice system works.

''The more the public sees our courts operate, the more they like and respect the court system,'' he said.

Cady said Tuesday afternoon that the senators may be sending him some written questions to answer.

Following the hearing, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she found Cady's remarks to be informative.

''I especially thought the Iowa judge's view was most interesting to me because they have had the most experience,'' said Klobuchar, who presided over Tuesday's session.

Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or



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