The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted out S. 623, the Sunshine in Litigation Act, intended to compel judges to open settlement agreements and other court proceedings that seal confidential documents. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), the sponsor, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), talked about how the bill been improved and made more balanced. We don't see it. (See Shopfloor post, "Sunshine in Litigation Act, Polished Up a Little.")
An interesting little exchange followed the 12-6 vote to report out the bill:
Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT): I want to compliment Sen. Kohl. I know he has worked a long, long time on this.
Kohl: 18 years.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): 18 years?
Kohl: It's been around for 18 years.
Leahy: 18 years. So congratulations.
We detect solicitude toward a senior. Sen. Kohl recently announced his decision not to seek re-election, and -- based on our decade of experience in and around the North Dakota Legislature -- we'd say his colleagues are paying respect to the Senator's years of service by letting the bill get out of committee and maybe even pass the Senate. Legislatures are human institutions, after all, and this sort of gesture has its place. Just as long as the bill doesn't become law.
BTW, the first time the Senator introduced the bill was August 6, 1993. It was S. 1404, the Sunshine in Litigation Act of 1993.