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Rules restricting cameras in courts will remain in place

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NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   INDIANA   ·   Broadcasting   ·   May 31, 2007 Rules restricting cameras…

NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   INDIANA   ·   Broadcasting   ·   May 31, 2007

Rules restricting cameras in courts will remain in place

  • High court denies petition from state broadcasters to amend the rules restricting cameras in courtrooms.

May 31, 2007  ·   The Indiana Supreme Court has denied a request by the Indiana Broadcasters Association to relax the rules governing cameras in trial courtrooms.

The current rules, part of an 18-month pilot program, allow one video camera, one still camera and three audio recorders in a courtroom as long as all parties consent.

Since the program began in July 2006, broadcasters have made more than 300 requests for access to courtrooms and have received only five acceptances, said Daniel Byron, attorney for the Indiana Broadcasters Association.

In a January letter to the Supreme Court, the broadcasters requested that the rules be amended to allow cameras in the courtroom at the discretion of the judge, rather than with the consent of all parties. The letter noted that only four other states require the parties’ consent before allowing the media to record hearings and trials. None of those states have been able to broadcast a trial because of an inability to obtain consent, according to the Jan. 11 letter.

The letter further asserted that in at least 19 states, only the consent of the presiding judge is required for the media to record in the courtroom, and that no court in those states has upheld a motion for mistrial resulting from cameras in the courtroom.

The court denied the request for amendments in a May 16 letter. Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard suggested the broadcasters begin documenting their efforts to obtain permission so the court could consider that in its future evaluations of the program.

Byron said the broadcasters do not plan to contest the court’s decision.

“We’re going to abide by the decision of the court and seek to redouble the efforts to get access to the cases and document our difficulties (getting access),” Byron said.

Byron said he has encouraged broadcasters to request access to two cases per week, even cases they do not plan to televise, in an effort to establish a positive precedent of having cameras in courtrooms. He has also asked broadcasters to document any difficulties they have getting access, which will be presented to the court when the program expires in December as evidence that the current system is not working.

“We anticipate that if we try extra hard and still can’t get it, then the court will listen to that,” Byron said. “I can’t say what the court might do, but I think they would heed our concern.”

Although critics of cameras in courtrooms argue that they cause undue disruptions, the cameras did not cause a disruption in any of the five proceedings at which they were allowed, Byron said.

“There’s been no disruption,” he said. “That’s a false canard. The way I like to say it is this: The camera is merely a passive and benign eye in the courtroom. It’s neither for the defense or the prosecution. It merely records objectively what goes on in the courtroom.”

(Media Counsel: Daniel P. Byron, Bingham McHale, Indianapolis)JB

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