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Senate Judiciary approves cameras-in-court bill

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting         Dec 4, 2001    

Senate Judiciary approves cameras-in-court bill

  • The latest cameras-in-the-courts bill, if passed, would grant federal judges the discretionary power to admit cameras and recording devices into their courtrooms.

The Senate Judiciary Committee rolled cameras and recording devices one step closer to federal courts last week, by approving a bill that would give judges the power to determine if coverage should be broadcast from their courts.

The bill would give judges presiding over federal trials and appeals the discretionary power to permit photography, electronic recording, broadcasting and televising of court proceedings if they chose. The committee approved the bill on Nov. 28, thus sending the bill to the Senate floor for debate.

If approved, the bill would require judges who allow cameras into the courtroom to give witnesses the option of having their faces and voices obscured during broadcast coverage. The bill, if it should become law, would lapse after three years.

Passage of Senate Bill 986 follows a long debate about whether to allow cameras into federal courts. Proponents say greater access would increase the public’s understanding of the judicial system, while some fear that opening courtrooms to broadcast media would result in a circus-like atmosphere.

The Judicial Conference would be in charge of developing advisory guidelines to help judges determine how to manage and administer broadcast coverage of court proceedings.

According to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and one of several sponsors of the bill, a blanket prohibition on cameras like the one currently in place unnecessarily limits the discretion of presiding judges.

“Allowing a wider public than just those who are able to make time to visit a courtroom to see and hear judiciary proceedings will allow Americans to evaluate for themselves the quality of justice in this country, and deepen their understanding of the work that goes on in our courtrooms,” Leahy said in a statement.

(S. 986) GR

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