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Thu., Feb. 9, 2012 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Proceedings of the Supreme Court, long kept out of the view of most Americans, would be televised under a bipartisan bill approved on Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Justices have long opposed TV cameras in their courtroom, saying they would be disruptive. But backers say such coverage would help provide public scrutiny.

On a vote of 11-7, the Judiciary Committee sent the measure to the full Senate for consideration. A similar bill was approved by the committee last year but failed to become law.

Among other cases, the nine-member court is expected to decide later this year the legality of President Barack Obama's landmark overhaul of the U.S. health care system.

The bill would require TV coverage of all of the court's open sessions, unless the justices decide by a majority vote that it would violate due process rights of those before the panel.

The measure's chief sponsors are Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat, and Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican.

"As the final arbiter of constitutionality, the Supreme Court decides the most pressing and often most controversial issues of our time," Durbin said.

"In a democratic society that values transparency and participation, there can be no valid justification for such a powerful element of government to operate largely outside the view of the American people," Durbin said.

Grassley said: "Our Constitution requires that the government be accountable to the people. The best way we can ensure that the federal government is accountable is to create transparency, openness, and access.

"This is a tremendous opportunity which would help increase understanding of, and appreciation for, the highest court in the land."

(Reporting By Thomas Ferraro; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

© 2010 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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