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A bill to require the Supreme Court to televise its public sessions was introduced in the Senate on Thursday.

The proposed legislation says the nation's highest court "shall permit" televised coverage of the 70 to 80 oral arguments it hears each year unless a majority of the nine justices concludes that doing so in a particular case would violate someone's rights.

The bill was introduced by Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Joseph Biden, D-Del.

"Since the Supreme Court . . . has assumed the power to decide cutting-edge issues of public policy virtually as a super-legislature, the public has a right to know what the court is doing," a release from Specter's office said.

There was no Supreme Court response to the bill. But in a 1996 letter to Specter, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said the justices "periodically considered the question of allowing live television and radio coverage . . . and a majority are of the view that it would be unwise to depart from our current practice."

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