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South Carolina high court approves permanent program to allow cameras in courts

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SOUTH CAROLINA -- The South Carolina Supreme Court unanimously approved an amendment to the state constitution in late September making…

SOUTH CAROLINA — The South Carolina Supreme Court unanimously approved an amendment to the state constitution in late September making cameras in the courtroom permanent after a successful year and a half long experiment.

The South Carolina Press Association and Broadcaster’s Steering Committee has worked with the state high court and the State Bar for the past five and a half years on the cameras in courts issue.

The experimental period began in February 1992 in one criminal court of Richland County. Gradually the experiment expanded to include many types of proceedings: criminal, civil, and family, in all counties. Since March, cameras have been allowed in every courtroom in the state, subject to the presiding judge’s approval.

The amendment allows for the use of two television cameras, one audio recorder, and two still photographers to cover proceedings in all South Carolina courtrooms as long as the equipment does not interfere with the court proceedings. The presiding judge decides on a designated location for all equipment.

Media representatives must give the presiding judge reasonable notice of a request for coverage of the proceeding. Even if the defense or the prosecution objects to the use of electronic media equipment during a particular proceeding, the decision is left entirely to the presiding judge who would weigh the potential harm media coverage would have on those involved against the public interest, especially in a family court.

(Canon 2(A)(7), Rule 501, South Carolina Appellate Court Rules)