Sen. Patrick Leahy will receive the 2016 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award in Boston on Friday in recognition of his advocacy of greater press freedoms, including work to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and calls for court proceedings to be televised.
Leahy has sponsored nearly 20 bills and resolutions to improve government transparency, though much of that legislation has not been adopted as law.
A recent bill, the 2015 FOIA Improvement Act, which would create a presumption of openness in federal agencies and require public documents to be digitized and made more easily available, has not gained traction.
Leahy has also called for cameras in courthouses as a means of increasing transparency and oversight and held hearings on the matter as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The award, bestowed by the New England First Amendment Coalition, comes as Leahy prepares for a Senate battle with Republicans over nominating a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
A blistering Leahy op-ed appeared Tuesday in USA Today demanding Republicans ease the gridlock and confirm a justice swiftly.
“Under our Constitution, the Supreme Court plays a fundamental role in our system of checks and balances,” Leahy wrote. “If partisans succeed in deliberately blocking any nominee from confirmation for more than a year, it will mean that the Supreme Court will not be at full strength for two terms.”
President Barack Obama has said he plans to announce his nominee soon.
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