Wednesday, November 16, 2005

House passes bill allowing cameras in federal courts

Federal district court trials and appellate arguments could be televised at the discretion of the presiding judge under an amendment passed on a 375-45 vote in the House of Representatives last week, according to a report from The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The amendment to the "Secure Access to Justice and Court Protection Act" includes provisions of the "Sunshine in the Courtroom Act," a bill that would allow camera and recording devices into federal courts on a three-year trial basis.

U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), a sponsor of the bill along with U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), said:
"Allowing television cameras in federal courts will open up the judiciary and allow the American people to see how their justice system operates. This is a good public policy if you are a believer in open and accountable government."
The bill now goes to the Senate, where Sens. Chuck Grassley (R- Iowa) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) have already introduced similar legislation.

But at an American Bar Association seminar last week, three Supreme Court justices urged caution and study before allowing cameras into the courts.

The bill is H.R. 1751.

1 comment:

Matthew Bowling said...

I think that it is a good idea for the press to be able to bring cameras or other recording devices into the courtroom. To me this amendment is just an extension to the ruling in the Supreme Court case Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia in which the justices overwelmingly agreed that the press has a right to attend criminal trials according to the First Amendment.
I agree with the justices that it should not be entered inot lightly. The press as it is already infinges on a defendants right to a fair trial by informing the audience before the trial or during the trial. That is why sometimes a traditionally open trial is closed to the press. To close a trial a judge must abide by certain rules set forth in the case Press-Enterprise v. Riverside Superior Court. I believe that if the same kind of guidelines are followed to bar recording devices from the courtrooms complications will be minimal.
It should not be much of a problem since state courts already allow cameras inside. Hopefully, there has been some research done by the federal government on how the use of recording devices has effected state courtrooms. If that has been done, some of the problems should already have solutions. If the research has not been done, then some problems can and will occur from having cameras filling the courtrooms.