Bill would create pilot program for federal trial camera coverage
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Cameras would be allowed in federal trial courts on an experimental basis under a bill proposed in early March by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio). The bill would create a three-year pilot project which would give federal district court judges discretion to allow broadcast coverage of court proceedings.
Chabot unsuccessfully fought for legislation last year that would have directed the Judicial Conference, a judicial body that creates administrative rules for federal courts, to publish non-binding guidelines allowing district judges to approve camera coverage. The bill failed to pass.
Chabot’s new bill, an amendment to the Judicial Reform Act of 1997, permits federal district judges to allow recording for radio and television and still photography at their discretion.
In his report to the House Judiciary Committee, Chabot contended that since federal judges are appointed for life, citizens should be offered the opportunity to monitor their performances.
Moreover, he argued that the public should have access to coverage of federal trial proceedings similar to C-SPAN’s coverage of sessions of the U.S. Congress.
In a press statement, Chabot said that following the conclusion of the pilot program, the “public, Congress, and experienced federal judges would then have the opportunity to review the benefits of the program.”
The amendment was scheduled for discussion at a late-March Judiciary Committee meeting.
A similar experiment was conducted from 1991 to 1994 by the Judicial Conference, but was not made permanent. The Judicial Conference has since allowed federal circuit courts to permit cameras. Only two circuits, the Second Circuit in New York City and the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, have voted to allow camera recording of oral arguments. (Amendment to H.R. 1252)