Courtroom Video Camera Pilot Project Advances

A pilot project for 14 district courts will begin in July, allowing cameras to record civil cases where the parties consent and the presiding judge approves; the presiding judge will have the ability to terminate the video recording; local rules will be modified in the pilot project districts

On September 14, 2010, the "Judicial Conference announced" that it approved a pilot project “to evaluate the effect of cameras in federal district courtrooms and the public release of digital video recordings of some civil proceedings.” See also Judicial Conference Approves Pilot Project To Evaluate Cameras In The Federal District Courts; Judiciary Approves Pilot Project for Cameras in District Courts.

Last week, the U.S. Courts announced that fourteen district courts had been selected for the pilot project. The courts had volunteered to participate in the program, including:

  • Middle District of Alabama
  • Northern District of California
  • Southern District of Florida
  • District of Guam
  • Northern District of Illinois
  • Southern District of Iowa
  • District of Kansas
  • District of Massachusetts
  • Eastern District of Missouri
  • District of Nebraska
  • Northern District of Ohio
  • Southern District of Ohio
  • Western District of Tennessee
  • Western District of Washington

The Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management issued Guidelines for the pilot project. The Guidelines include a model local rule which can be used to amend the local rules in the participating districts. See Guidelines § 1(b). No more than four cameras will be permitted in the courtroom.Id. § 3(a)(1). The court will be able to stop the recording and since the proceedings will not be simulcast, the court can decide not to post the recording for public view. Id. § 3(a)(4). No recording may be permitted of privileged communications, jurors and the jury selection process. Id. § 4(b). The court may also “refuse, limit, or terminate the recording of an entire case, portions thereof, or testimony of particular witnesses: in the interests of justice; to protect the rights of the parties, and witnesses, and the dignity of the court; to assure the orderly conduct of proceedings; or for any reason considered necessary or appropriate by the presiding judge.” Id. § 4(a).

After a three-year period, the impact of cameras in civil proceedings will be assessed.

For more information, visit the Cameras And Electronic Devices In The Federal Courtroom Resource Page, which contains a library of documents including judicial conference policies, judicial guidelines, legislation and hearings, cases and other articles of interest. If you are aware of other information to add to the library, please contact us. Constructive comments are always welcome.

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