The Society of Environmental Journalists joined other journalism groups October 12, 2005, in urging newly installed Chief Justice John Roberts to speed and broaden press and public access to proceedings of the US Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court's press access rules are more restrictive than those of other federal courts, federal agencies, or Congress. For example, transcripts of oral arguments before the Court are normally not made available to the press or public until seven to ten days later. Moreover, audiotapes of oral arguments are not normally available to the public until the following fall through the National Archives. Currently, neither still nor video cameras are allowed in Supreme Court chambers.
"We hope that you will give every consideration," the journalism groups wrote Roberts, "to expanding electronic and photographic coverage of the arguments before the court and that you will support both policy and technical changes to enhance the ability of the news media and others to provide the public timely and accurate information."
The groups stopped short of advocating TV cameras in the court.
Besides SEJ and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which initiated the letter, the groups included the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, the California First Amendment Coalition, and the Society of Professional Journalists.
The groups urged Roberts to make expedited audiotapes available for all cases - or at least more than the rare few cases it has done so for to date.
They also asked Roberts, who administers the Court as Chief Justice, to encourage Justices to reveal their reasons for recusing themselves from cases, to give the public more information about individual Justices' health, and about upcoming scheduled public speaking appearances of Justices.