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cameras in the courtroom

New York Looks to Expand Cameras in the Courtroom

New York court officials are looking to expand the rules governing the use of cameras in the courtroom so they can be used to "'to the fullest extent permissible by the law,'" New York Law Journal's Andrew Keshner reports. The rules for the use of cameras in the courtroom haven't been updated since the 1990s.

The proposed new roles would insert new language saying "'in order to maintain the broadest scope of public access to the courts,' and promote confidence and understanding of the judicial system, 'it is the policy of the Unified Court System to facilitate the audio-visual coverage of court proceedings to the fullest extent permitted by the New York Civil Rights Law and other statutes."'

Public comment must be received by August 10.

Congress Considers Cameras in the Supreme Court

SCOTUSBlog's Amy Howe reports that there was bipartistan backing for the introduction of cameras in the Supreme Court at a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing Wednesday. The bill under consideration would authorize, but not mandate, the Supreme Court to allow televised proceedings. Mickey Osterreicher, the GC for the National Press Photographers Association, "noted that interest in the Supreme Court is high when, as now, the Court has a wide variety of landmark cases on its docket, but public seats at the Court are very limited. By contrast, he emphasized, the many state supreme courts that have allowed their proceedings to be televised have not experienced problems." The Supreme Court justices, however, continue to generally oppose cameras in the highest courtroom in the United States, Howe notes.

Supreme Court Criticized for Lack of Transparency

The U.S. Supreme Court is being criticized for not doing enough to open public access to court proceedings by a coalition formed to increase transparency in the judiciary, Legal Times' Tony Mauro reports: "'There remains much to be done to bring the institution in line with our expectations of openness from our nation’s top legal officials,' according to an end-of-term report issued by the Coalition for Court Transparency."

The issues being raised include having cameras present for Supreme Court oral arguments, more explanation on why the justices recuse themselves from cases, and the justices maintaining a no-protest zone in front of the Supreme Court.

Opinion: Cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court Would Improve the Institution

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, writing in the Los Angeles Times, argues that the U.S. Supreme Court should follow the lead of the 9th Circuit and add live streaming of court proceedings: "When Justice David H. Souter uttered his now-infamous declaration in 1996 that cameras would roll into the Supreme Court over his dead body, the Internet was relatively new and Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the iPhone were as real as Capt. Kirk's communicator. Today, there are few facets of daily life that are not available instantly online, including many criminal trials, which you can even watch on your mobile device at 30,000 feet. What this has done is create an expectation by the public that if something is truly important, it can be witnessed firsthand."

Opinion: Cameras in the Courts Threaten Justice

The Guardian has published an opinion piece arguing against allowing cameras in criminal courtrooms: Television "companies want into the criminal courts because that is where the drama is. Such exposure will put witnesses off, discourage victims even if their faces are not on screen and distort the behaviour of lawyers and judges. As for defendants, they risk being feasted upon by the media with a frenzy that will wholly discredit the system." However, airing proceedings in England's appellate courts is beneficial because "in our common law system, binding law is made in these highest courts as well as in parliament. So, while it may be dull to many, it is perfectly rational to have it available for public information."

A similar line is drawn in Pennsylvania, for example.


Opinion: Three Ways to Fix the U.S. Supreme Court

CNN has this opinion piece from a Kathryn and Lawrence Ashe Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law professor on three ways to improve the United States Supreme Court:

1. end lifetime service

2. televise oral arguments

3. require nominees to "answer hard questions" during their confirmation hearings in the Senate.


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