Judicial Conference to reconsider policy on cameras in federal courts
WASHINGTON — The Federal Judicial Conference may reconsider its two-month-old decision not to allow cameras in any federal courts when its ad hoc committee meets in December, the Associated Press reported in mid-November.
Thirteen appeals court chief judges have signed a letter asking the committee to recommend permanently allowing cameras in federal appeals courts, despite the Conference’s vote to ban them.
The 27-judge conference, headed by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, voted in late September to remove cameras from federal trial and appellate court civil cases at the end of the three- and-a-half year experimental program. That program is scheduled to end December 31.
Chief Judge Gilbert S. Merritt of the Court of Appeals in Cincinnati (6th Cir.) told the Associated Press that cameras in appellate courts do not prompt the same concerns about their effects on witnesses and jurors as in trial courts. In appellate courts, attorneys argue before a panel of judges without witnesses or jurors.
If the proposal is accepted by the ad hoc committee, the full conference could approve it as early as March, Merritt said. The chief judge of each circuit would then be allowed to decide whether to allow camera coverage of the circuit’s appellate hearings, he added.
Other proposals to expand trial coverage are also being presented to the ad hoc committee, including one that would require media to install and maintain camera coverage for the duration of a trial, although they would not have to broadcast all of the material videotaped. Another proposal reportedly would require media outlets to air at least 60 to 90 seconds of any courtroom excerpts at one time.