CONTACT: Robert Leger, President, 417/ 836-1113 or cell 417/ 425-9140 or firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Society of Professional Journalists applauds the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to release immediately an audiotape of oral arguments in two affirmative action cases from the University of Michigan. The court, recognizing the wide interest in the case, released the tapes shortly after arguments were heard on Tuesday morning. Normally, audio is not released until the end of the court’s session.
SPJ President Robert Leger, in a letter to Chief Justice William Rehnquist, noted that the release of the audio will help citizens better understand the issues in this difficult and divisive case. “Citizens agree or disagree with the outcomes” of many court decisions, Leger wrote for SPJ. “We believe our nation and the courts are better served if those are informed opinions, with a foundation in the testimony and arguments made to the court.”
Leger urged the court to make the timely release of such audiotapes a regular part of its procedures and to consider allowing television cameras into federal courtrooms.
The full text of the letter follows.
The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Chief Justice William Rehnquist U.S. Supreme Court One First Street, N.E. Washington, D.C. 20543-0001
Dear Chief Justice Rehnquist:
The Society of Professional Journalists was heartened by the court’s decision to release immediately the audiotape of oral arguments in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger. Excerpts were widely played by public and commercial radio stations across the country, thus helping Americans to better understand the issues before the court - and the court’s eventual decision.
SPJ, the nation’s largest and most broad-based organization for journalists, has long supported greater public access to the courts through still and video cameras. We do this not to make our jobs easier or to boost sales and ratings, but because we believe the public will more readily support that which it can see and understand.
The courts often face difficult, divisive issues - as in the University of Michigan cases. Citizens agree or disagree with the outcomes. We believe our nation and the courts are better served if those are informed opinions, with a foundation in the testimony and arguments made to the court. Your decision to release the audiotape of Tuesday’s arguments will help accomplish that goal in this instance.
We urge the court to make the timely release of audiotapes a regular part of its procedures and to consider allowing cameras into the federal courts. As ever, SPJ stands ready to offer any assistance or counsel.
Robert Leger SPJ President Editorial Page Editor, the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader