Judicial Conference changes stand on cameras in appellate proceedings
WASHINGTON, D.C.–In mid-March, the Judicial Conference of the United States approved a resolution giving federal appellate courts the authority to decide whether to permit television coverage of appellate arguments before them.
The Conference also voted to urge circuit judicial councils to prohibit cameras in federal District Courts, which are trial courts, and to abrogate any local rules of the court that conflict with the Conference’s position opposing cameras in trial courts. The latter resolution came after federal judge Robert Ward decided in early March to allow cameras into his New York court, citing a local court rule giving judges discretion to allow camera coverage.
The new policy does not apply to the U.S. Supreme Court, which continues to ban camera and audio coverage of its arguments.
The decision to allow cameras in federal appellate courts is a reversal of a Conference policy in effect since September 1994. At that time, a majority of the Conference declined to approve camera coverage in trial or appellate courts, citing the intimidating effect of cameras on some witnesses and jurors at the trial level.
The Judicial Conference is the principal policy-making body for the federal court system. It is chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, and composed of district and appellate judges from the 13 federal circuits.