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Neutered cameras bill limps out of committee

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  1. Court Access
Incredibly and inexplicably, camera coverage of federal courts continues to be shot down because of baseless speculation and misinformation. Sen.…

Incredibly and inexplicably, camera coverage of federal courts continues to be shot down because of baseless speculation and misinformation. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) lost a battle to allow coverage of federal district courts after his colleagues got skittish. (The requirement to allow cameras in Supreme Court hearings lives on, but the Court will probably ignore it if it passes.)

CNN reports that two committee members — both former prosecutors — said witnesses in criminal trials would not testify if cameras were in the courts. But then Sen. Diane Feinstein chimed in with the tired old objections that judges would "perform for the cameras" and a circus atmosphere would prevail.

"How does this improve the quality of justice one bit?" she asked. "Courts should not be entertainment. We already have Judge Judy."

Please tell us you’re kidding, senator. Cameras in courts inform the public about the workings of our system of justice, regardless of whether some view it as entertainment. And years of studies in the states show that cameras do not adversely affect trials. All that stands in opposition to the empirical evidence is speculation that cameras create circuses — yet no evidence backs that up. It’s a shame a few senators can allow such a simplistic reaction to stand in the way of greater public access to the people’s courts  — and that’s not a TV reference, Sen. Feinstein.