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House Judiciary Approves Major Transparency Bill Featuring Several of Our "Fixes"

Live audio at SCOTUS, live video in circuit courts, recusal explanations and a new ethics code all agreed upon

Parties reach compromise on bill’s major sticking point, the creation of 52 new district judgeships

Fix the Court today applauded the bipartisan work of the House Judiciary Committee to reach a compromise on – and pass out of committee – a bill that would vastly improve transparency in the third branch.

Within one year of the bill’s passage, same-day audio release for Supreme Court oral arguments would be required; live audio at the high court would be required within two years and live video for all circuit court arguments also within two years. The bill would compel the Judicial Conference of the U.S. to create a code of conduct that the justices would also be bound to and the SCOTUS clerk to post online the reasoning behind each of the justice’s recusals when they occur.

The major sticking point of the first draft of the bill was the immediate creation of 52 new judgeships at the district court level. Though these positions were requested by the Judicial Conference, Democrats on the House panel objected to their immediate creation. After the committee recessed for a floor vote, Rep. Raskin offered an amendment that would delay implementation of the judgeship provision until January 22, 2021. The committee approved that version the bill by voice vote.

FTC executive director Gabe Roth said: “A bill to fix the third branch’s opacity has cleared its first hurdle in a refreshingly bipartisan way. Having the weight of Rep. Issa, who authored the bill, and Chairman Goodlatte behind it, combined with the push toward compromise led by Rep. Raskin and Ranking Member Nadler, demonstrated that the bill’s core components of improved efficiency and greater transparency are worthy, apolitical goals. I look forward to following its progress toward a vote on the House floor.”

The bill would also require Article III judges to stand for a medical exam every two years once they reach age 70 and every year once they reach age 81. Though the results of those exams would largely remain confidential, if a doctor identifies a condition “that may impact the ability of the judge or justice to carry out [his or her] duties […], the physician shall submit such finding to the appropriate chief judge or justice.”

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