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Cams and Mics in Federal Courts

Encouraging news...from Tom Taylor, at

Finally, cameras and mics in federal courts, in a three-year trial.

This won’t affect the Supreme Court, where Chief Justice John Roberts has even closed off its historic main entry for security reasons. But the Judicial Conference of the United States takes a major step toward transparency by authorizing a pilot project to permit cameras in federal courtrooms. Judges don’t have to participate, and some probably won’t. There will be strict ground rules – the courts themselves will do the recording (no third-party taping in the gallery). Members of the jury won’t be identified. And the parties involved must agree to being taped. A relaxation of the rules in 1996 let federal appellate courts open up to video coverage and two (the 2nd and the 9th) have. There’s actually another precedent for recording legal proceedings that has been very radio friendly. The Eastern District of Pennsylvania changed from the usual court stenographer system to tape recording a decade ago. A perhaps unintended consequence was the availability of that sound (not video) to the media. Courtroom sound aired on stations such as all-news KYW, Philadelphia (1060) comes from the court’s own taping system, with no apparent hangups for the legal system.