WA State Supreme Court honors TVW for trial coverage

The Olympian


OLYMPIA, WA-- TVW, Washington's version of C-SPAN public-access television, has brought the judiciary out of "obscurity and anonymity" and helped citizens better understand their government, the state Supreme Court says.
Although many courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, bar television cameras, the state's highest court allows gavel-to-gavel coverage of all oral arguments, both live and archived on the Internet.

A Supreme Court hearing, in fact, was TVW's first program, aired back on April 10, 1995.

The court is so pleased with how it has gone that all nine justices held an unusual ceremony Thursday to honor TVW and its co-founder and longtime president, Denny Heck.

Heck, a former House majority leader and chief of staff to then-Gov. Booth Gardner, is retiring. Cindy Zehnder, chief administrator for the House, will take over.

Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, chairman of the state Bench-Bar-Press Committee, and retired Justice Charles Z. Smith, a former television commentator, said they had no trepidation in making the original recommendation to permit television to show the proceedings, warts and all. They said their faith was well-placed.

Live coverage, reruns, and live and archived Internet coverage of the high court has greatly expanded the audience, and the public's awareness of the bench, he said.

Judges who once toiled in anonymity now get comments from regular folks who are watching court proceedings, Alexander said. He recalled an attendant at a roadside coffee stand greeting him by name and telling him he was a "court junkie."

The judiciary is the least-known branch of government and even occasional viewing can give the citizen a clearer view of what the court does, Alexander said.



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