Cameras And Electronic Devices In The Federal Courtroom Resource Page

The Cameras And Electronic Devices In The Federal Courtroom Resource Page provides a library of key materials concerning the issue of whether cameras and other electronic devices should be permitted in federal civil proceedings and under what circumstances.

Given the importance of the current policy debate and impact on federal court proceedings, these materials are offered to provide a better understanding of the history and issues. Use the Quick Navigation Links below to locate key materials by subject area.

Background

The use of cameras in federal courtrooms has been debated for many years. One question in this policy debate concerns the extent that the use of cameras may impact the presentation and consideration of evidence. Will the behavior of the court participants change by the presence of cameras (including witnesses, counsel and the judge). For example, would it be more difficult for a victim to testify, even in a civil case, knowing that the proceedings are being broadcast? This issue has been raised before. For example, in 1994, a Judicial Conference Report declined a recommendation to expand the use of cameras in federal civil cases following a pilot project, noting "the intimidating effect of cameras on some witnesses and jurors was cause for concern." Many years ago, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas expressed his concern over courtroom broadcasting: “Photographing or broadcasting of trials in my view imperils the fair trial of which we boast. It is not dangerous because it is new. It is dangerous because of the insidious influences which it puts to work I the administration of justice.” Justice William O. Douglas, Public Trial and the Free Press, 46 A.B.A.J. 840, 840 (Aug. 1960).

Another question concerns the impact of reviewing the recorded trial record. Presently, under established standards of review, the courts of appeal normally give deference to the trial court on matters of fact including credibility determinations. However, with a video record of the proceedings, would an appellate court encroach upon this traditional deference and conclude it can independently review credibility and other matters with less deference? Some state courts have rules providing for a certified copy of the recorded proceedings with the appellate record. See, e.g., Kentucky Court Rule 98(2)(a) ("Upon the filing of a notice of appeal, one of the two video recordings, or a court-certified copy of that portion thereof recording the court proceeding being appealed shall be filed with the clerk and certified by the clerk as part of the record on appeal.").

U.S. Judicial Conference

Since 1996, the policy of the Judicial Conference of the United States has allowed each circuit council to determine the circumstances in which cameras, if any, may be permitted in their courts in civil cases and under what circumstances. However, in September 2010, the Judicial Conference "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." The three-year pilot project commenced in July 2011. See Federal Trial Courts Pilot Program Table (collecting key court materials).

Not Criminal Cases

The discussion of televising federal proceedings concerns civil cases. As a general matter, cameras are prohibited in criminal proceedings under Fed. R. Crim. P. 53 (“Except as otherwise provided by a statute or these rules, the court must not permit the taking of photographs in the courtroom during judicial proceedings or the broadcasting of judicial proceedings from the courtroom.”). There is no comparable bar for civil proceedings.

Closed Circuit Proceedings for Crime Victims

In another context, Congress has authorized closed circuit televised court proceedings for victims of crime. See 42 U.S.C. § 10608.





Federal Trial Courts Pilot Program

On July 18, 2011, the federal courts launched a three-year pilot project in fourteen districts to assess the impact of cameras in federal trial courts for civil proceedings. The fourteen districts include: (1) Middle District of Alabama; (2) Northern District of California; (3) Southern District of Florida; (4) District of Guam; (5) Northern District of Illinois; (6) Southern District of Iowa; (7) District of Kansas; (8) District of Massachusetts; (9) Eastern District of Missouri; (10) District of Nebraska; (11) Northern District of Ohio; (12) Southern District of Ohio; (13) Western District of Tennessee; and (14) Western District of Washington. On September 14, 2010, the U.S. Judicial Conference "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." Some of the primary materials from the pilot program are noted below:

DateJudicial ActionNotes
2011 - 2013 Pilot Program Videos
2011 Pilot Program Guidelines
  • Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management Guidelines for the Cameras Pilot Project in the District Courts
2011U.S. District Court, Middle District of Alabama
2011U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
2011U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida
  • SDFL Local Rule 77.1 (Photographing, Broadcasting, Televising) ("Judges participating in the Judicial Conference of the United States pilot program may permit recording, broadcasting, and publishing of proceedings in accordance with program guidelines") (amended Dec. 1, 2011)
2011U.S. District Court, District of Guam
2011U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
2011U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa
2011U.S. District Court, District of Kansas
2011U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts
2011U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri
2011U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska
2011U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio
2011U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio
2011U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee
2011U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington
July 26, 2011 Implementation Guidance
  • United States District Courts, Digital Video Recording (“Cameras”) Pilot Project, Implementation Guidance, Court Administration and Case Management Committee
  • Questions and Answers: Identifying Courtroom Proceedings That Might Be Video Recorded
June 8, 2011 Courts Selected for Federal Cameras in Court Pilot Study
March 29, 2011 Digital Video Recording Project Seeks Courts
Sept. 14, 2010 Judicial Conference Approves Pilot Project

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U.S. Judicial Conference

The Judicial Conference is the rule-making body for the federal judiciary. The Conference consists of the Chief Justice of the United States, who presides over the forum, the chief judge of each court of appeals, one district judge from each circuit, and the Chief Judge of the Court of International Trade. See 28 U.S.C. § 331. The Judicial Conference actions and positions on televised proceedings have evolved over the past few decades. On September 14, 2010, the U.S. Judicial Conference "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." Some of the primary materials from the U.S. Judicial Conference are noted below:

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DateJudicial Conference ActionNotes
Sept. 14, 2010 Judicial Conference Approves Pilot Project
Sept. 27, 2007 Judicial Conference Statement Of The Honorable John R. Tunheim Judge, United States District Court For The District Of Minnesota, before the House Judiciary Committee, Hearing on Cameras in the Courtroom
  • "The Judicial Conference position [of opposition to legislation authorizing cameras in the courtroom] is based on a thoughtful and reasoned concern regarding the impact cameras could have on trial proceedings. This legislation has the potential to undermine the fundamental right of citizens to a fair trial. It could jeopardize court security and the safety of trial participants, including judges, U.S. attorneys, trial counsel, U.S. marshals, court reporters, and courtroom deputies. The use of cameras in the trial courts could also raise privacy concerns and produce intimidating effects on litigants, witnesses, and jurors, many of whom have no direct connection to the proceeding. In addition, appearing on television could lead some trial participants to act more dramatically, to pontificate about their personal views, to promote commercial interests to a national audience, or to increase their courtroom actions so as to lengthen their appearance on camera. Finally, camera coverage could become a negotiating tactic in pretrial settlement discussions or cause parties to choose not to exercise their right to have a trial."
Sept. 15, 1999 Report Of The Proceedings Of The Judicial Conference Of The United States, at 17 (Sept. 15, 1999)
  • Noting Continued Opposition: "In light of the Judicial Conference’s strong opposition to cameras in courtrooms, determined to oppose the judiciary’s federal courts improvement bill if it includes a provision authorizing presiding judges of district and appellate courts to permit media coverage of court proceedings."
Sept. 23, 1997 Report Of The Proceedings Of The Judicial Conference Of The United States, at 65 (Sept. 23, 1997
  • Noting Continued Opposition: On the Judicial Reform Act of 1997, "oppos[ing] section 8 of the bill, regarding the authority of the individual presiding judge to allow cameras in the appellate courts, because it is contrary to Conference policy, which gives each appellate court the authority to determine whether to permit cameras in the courtroom."
Sept. 17, 1996Report Of The Proceedings Of The Judicial Conference Of The United States, at 17 (Sept. 17, 1996)
  • "The Judicial Conference approved a Court Administration and Case Management Committee recommendation that it adopt conforming revisions to the "Cameras in the Courtroom" policy and commentary to be printed in Volume I, Chapter 111, Part E of the Guide to Judiciary Policies and Procedures. These revisions reflect Judicial Conference actions taken in September 1994 (JCUS-SEP 94, pp. 46-47) and March 1996 (JCUS-MAR 96, p. 17)."
Sept. 15, 1996Report Of The Proceedings Of The Judicial Conference Of The United States, at 17 (Sept. 15, 1996)
  • Conclusion: “In light of the Judicial Conference’s strong opposition to cameras in courtrooms, determined to oppose the judiciary’s federal courts improvement bill if it includes a provision authorizing presiding judges of district and appellate courts to permit media coverage of court proceedings.”
March 12, 1996 Report Of The Proceedings Of The Judicial Conference Of The United States, at 17 (March 12, 1996)
  • Conclusion: “The Judicial Conference agreed to authorize each court of appeals to decide for itself whether to permit the taking of photographs and radio and television coverage of appellate arguments, subject to any restrictions in statutes, national and local rules, and such guidelines as the Judicial Conference may adopt.”
Sept. 20, 1994 Report Of The Proceedings Of The Judicial Conference Of The United States, at 47 (Sept. 20, 1994)
  • Conclusion: "The Committee's report included an evaluation conducted by the Federal Judicial Center of a three-year pilot project in six district and two appellate courts, as well as an analysis of studies conducted in state courts. Based upon the data presented, a majority of the Conference concluded that the intimidating effect of cameras on some witnesses and jurors was cause for concern, and the Conference declined to approve the Committee's recommendation to expand camera coverage in civil proceedings."
March 15, 1994 Report Of The Proceedings Of The Judicial Conference Of The United States, at 15 (March 15, 1994)
  • Update: "The cameras in the courtroom pilot project, approved by the Judicial Conference in September 1990 (JCUS-SEP 90, pp. 103-104), permits photographing, recording, and broadcasting of civil proceedings in six district and two appellate courts. The project has been monitored and evaluated by the Federal Judicial Center, and was originally scheduled to terminate on June 30,1994. The Judicial Conference approved a recommendation of the Court Administration and Case Management Committee that the experiment be extended to December 31, 1994, in order to provide the Committee with sufficient time to consider additional data regarding the effect of media coverage on jurors and witnesses. The Committee will report to the Judicial Conference in September 1994."
Sept. 12, 1990Report Of The Proceedings Of The Judicial Conference Of The United States, at 103-04 (Sept. 12, 1990)
  • Conclusion: "[T]he Conference authorized, a three year experiment in up to two courts of appeals and up to six district courts, permitting photographing, recording, and broadcasting of civil proceedings, in accordance with guidelines, also approved by the Conference, which participating courts would have to adopt and which give presiding judicial officers the discretion, at any time, to refuse, limit, or terminate media coverage for any reason 'considered necessary or appropriate by the presiding judicial officer."' The Federal Judicial Center has agreed to monitor and evaluate the pilot, which will commence July 1, 1991, and 'sunset' June 30, 1994."
March 14, 1989Report Of The Proceedings Of The Judicial Conference Of The United States, at 34 (March 14, 1989)
  • Update: "The Ad Hoc Committee on Cameras in the Courtroom ... reported that, in its view, the current language of Canon 3A(7) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges is unduly restrictive. The Committee is considering a more flexible approach and hopes to recommend action for the Judicial Conference in September, 1989."
Sept. 14, 1988Report Of The Proceedings Of The Judicial Conference Of The United States, at 57 (Sept. 14, 1988)
  • Recommendation: The Conference "recommended that the Chief Justice appoint an ad hoc committee to review recommendations from other Judicial Conference committees concerning the introduction of 'cameras in the courtroom'."

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Relevant Cases and Rulings

Date Opinion Notes
U.S. Supreme Court
Jan. 13, 2010Hollingsworth v. Perry, 558 U. S. __, 130 S.Ct. 705, 175 L.Ed.2d 657 (2010) (per curiam) (No. 09A648)
  • Majority Opinion: "The question whether courtroom proceedings should be broadcast has prompted considerable national debate. Reasonable minds differ on the proper resolution of that debate and on the restrictions, circumstances, and procedures under which such broadcasts should occur. We do not here express any views on the propriety of broadcasting court proceedings generally. Instead, our review is confined to a narrow legal issue: whether the District Court’s amendment of its local rules to broadcast this trial complied with federal law. We conclude that it likely did not and that applicants have demonstrated that irreparable harm would likely result from the District Court’s actions. We therefore stay the court’s January 7, 2010, order to the extent that it permits the live streaming of court proceedings to other federal courthouses. We do not address other aspects of that order, such as those related to the broadcast of court proceedings on the Internet, as this may be premature."
  • Blog Post: Supreme Court Watch: No Broadcast Of Proposition 8 Bench Trial After Supreme Court Stay
  • Blog Post: Challenge Lodged On The Broadcasting Of Proposition 8 Bench Trial (also collecting briefs and other materials on the case)
Jan. 26, 1981Chandler v. Florida, 449 U.S. 560, 562, 583 (1981)
  • Issue: "[W]hether, consistent with constitutional guarantees, a state may provide for radio, television, and still photographic coverage of a criminal trial for public broadcast, notwithstanding the objection of the accused"
  • Holding: "[T]he Constitution does not prohibit a state from experimenting with the program" to permit radio, television, and still photographic coverage of a criminal trial
First Circuit
April 16, 2009 In re: Sony BMG Music Entertainment, 564 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2009)
  • holding the district court lacked "the authority to permit gavel-to-gavel webcasting of a hearing in a civil case" which was barred under "a local rule, applicable in this case, when read in conjunction with an announced policy of the Judicial Conference of the United States and a resolution of the First Circuit Judicial Council"
Seventh Circuit
Sept. 28, 2009 In Re Complaint Against District Judge Joe Billy McDade, No. 07-09-90083 (7th Cir. Jud. Coun. Sept. 28, 2009)
  • Considering judicial complaint after the authorization of media coverage of a school integration case
  • Chief Judge Easterbrook noted: “The role of cameras in the courtroom is a subject of ongoing debate in the legislative and judicial branches, and among members of the public. People of good will advocate photography and broadcasts; other people think that cameras would have ill effects. No matter what one makes of these contentions, once the Judicial Conference of the United States and Judicial Council of the Seventh Circuit have adopted a policy, a judge must implement it without regard to his own views.”
  • District Judge Apology (Sept. 21, 2009)
  • Blog Post: Recent Action In Two Circuits Highlights Issue Of Cameras In The Federal Courtroom
Ninth Circuit
Feb. 2, 2012Perry v. Brown, 667 F.3d 1078 (9th Cir. 2012) (No. 11-17255)
  • In a narrow ruling, the Ninth Circuit reverses district court order to unseal video of bench trial as “the district court abused its discretion by ordering the unsealing of the recording of the trial notwithstanding the trial judge’s commitment to the parties that the recording would not be publicly broadcast”
  • The Ninth Circuit noted but did not decide “whether the First Amendment right of public access to judicial records applies to civil proceedings.” Even assuming, without deciding, that it did, a compelling interest would override the right based on the facts of the case.
  • The decision to keep the trial video under seal since “the integrity of the judicial process is a compelling interest that in these circumstances would be harmed by the nullification of the trial judge’s express assurances, and that there are no alternatives to maintaining the recording under seal that would protect the compelling interest at issue.”
  • Blog Post: Ninth Circuit Reverses Order to Release Video Of Proposition 8 Bench Trial
2009Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Case Nos. 10-16696 (main appeal) and 10-16751 (intervenor appeal) (Nov. 17, 2010)

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Court Practice, Judicial Council Guidelines and Local Rules

Date Guidelines Notes
U.S. Supreme Court
March 2013Supreme Court Announces Same-Day Audio Release Of DOMA And Proposition 8 Arguments
  • Noting that the audio recordings and transcripts of the oral argument for the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 cases within hours of the argument
  • Noting Supreme Court history involving the release of audio recordings and transcripts
  • Asking whether increasing audio coverage suggests a possible trend toward televised coverage one day?
  • Blog Post: See also Supreme Court Watch: Announcing Same-Day Audio Release Of Health Care Arguments
Oct. 2010Supreme Court Transcripts and Recordings of Oral Arguments Available
  • "Beginning with October Term 2010, the audio recordings of all oral arguments heard by the Supreme Court of the United States will be available free to the public on the Court's Web Site, www.supremecourt.gov. The audio recordings will be posted on Fridays at the end of each argument week."
  • Blog Post: Prospective: Ten Key Evidence Issues For 2011 (Tenth Issue: More Efforts In Support Of Cameras In The Federal Courtroom) ("On a related issue, in October 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court began making audio recordings of arguments available the week of argument. The audio files are available on the Supreme Court website.... It may be more difficult to forestall the release, and ultimate broadcast, of video recordings. If audio can be publicly available, why not video? What is the distinction between audio and video release? ")
Second Circuit
March 27, 1996Cameras in the Courtroom -- Second Circuit Guidelines
  • Upon prior media notification, and subject to panel discretion, "proceedings of the Court conducted in open court may be covered by the media using a television camera, sound recording equipment, and a still camera"
  • Promulgated based on the authorization by the Judicial Conference as noted in the Judicial Conference Report (March 12, 1996)
Seventh Circuit
Oct. 15, 1996 Judicial Council of the Seventh Circuit Resolution (Oct. 15, 1996)
  • "The taking of photographs, making of audio or video recordings, or electronic broadcasting of judicial proceedings in or from a court room must not be permitted by any district court (including any bankruptcy judge or magistrate judge) in this circuit. This order does not affect recordings made by court reporters or otherwise expressly required or permitted by law, such as closed circuit telecasting to victims of crime under Section 2353 the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-132, the conduct of judicial proceedings involving participants in multiple locations linked by videoconferencing, or the use of electronic equipment by the judicial branch for internal functions such as security monitoring. At its discretion, a district court may permit photographs, and audio and video recording, on ceremonial occasions."
  • Blog Post: Recent Action In Two Circuits Highlights Issue Of Cameras In The Federal Courtroom
Ninth Circuit
Dec. 7, 2011Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to Offer Remote Viewing of En Banc Proceedings
  • Providing a live video and audio feed from en banc proceedings at the Pasadena Courthouse to other Ninth Circuit Courthouses for seven cases heard on December 12-15, 2011
Dec. 13, 2010Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to Offer Remote Viewing of En Banc Proceedings
  • Providing a live video and audio feed from en banc proceedings at the Pasadena Courthouse to other Ninth Circuit Courthouses for three cases heard on December 13-16, 2010
Feb. 25, 2010Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to Offer Remote Viewing of En Banc Proceedings
  • Providing a live video and audio feed from en banc proceedings at the Pasadena Courthouse to other Ninth Circuit Courthouses for three cases heard on June 22-23, 2010
Feb. 25, 2010Principles and Practices for Electronic Devices
  • Prepared by Special Subcommittee for Electronic Devices
  • Approved by the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit
Dec. 27, 2009 Ninth Circuit Judicial Council Approves Experimental Use of Cameras in District Courts
1996Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Guidelines And Application For Photographing, Recording, And Broadcasting In The Courtroom
  • Section 1(b): "A three business day advance notice is required from the media of a request to be present to broadcast, televise, record electronically, or take photographs at a particular session. Such requests must be submitted to the Clerk of Court using the form attached to these guidelines."
  • Effective: June 21, 1996

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Congressional Action

Over the past several years, Congress has held hearing and considered legislation to permit televised federal court proceedings, including the following matters:

Date Congressional Action Notes
112th Congress (2011 - 2012)
February 17, 2011 Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2011, S. 410, 112th Cong., 1st Sess. (2011)
  • Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2011
  • Sponsor Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-IA)
  • To allow the presiding judge of a circuit or district court to allow the broadcasting of federal court proceedings. Under the legislation, the face or voice of an individual may be obscured based on a showing of a threat to safety or security concerns, “the integrity of future or ongoing law enforcement operations” or “the interest of justice.” The legislation prohibits the broadcasting “of any juror in a trial proceeding, or of the jury selection process” or conferences between counsel and their clients. No interlocutory appeals would be authorized concerning the “decision of the presiding judge” to broadcast a court proceeding.
  • Remarks upon introduction, 157 Cong. Rec. S908-09 (Feb. 17, 2011) (Remarks of Sen. Grassley)
  • Senator Grassley, "One Step At A Time" (July 26, 2011) (commending the Federal Trial Coruts Pilot Program and noting legislation; "Greater transparency leads to greater accountability, which is all too often in short supply around the federal government.")
  • S. 410 as reported to the Senate
  • Blog Post: Sunshine in the Courtroom Act Sent To Senate (S. 410)
  • Blog Post: Sunshine in the Courtroom Act Reintroduced (S. 410)
August 5, 2011H.R. 2802, 112th Cong., 1st Sess. (2011)
  • Sponsor Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH)
  • To provide for media coverage of Federal court proceedings
  • "Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2011"
  • Referred to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law (Aug. 25, 2011)
Dec. 6, 2011H.R. 3572, 112th Cong., 1st Sess. (2011)
  • Sponsor Representative Gerald E. “Gerry” Connolly (D-VA)
  • To permit the televising of Supreme Court proceedings
  • "The Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2011"
  • Remarks upon introduction, 157 Cong. Rec. E2192 (Dec. 6, 2011) (Remarks of Rep. Connolly)
  • Remarks urging support for measure, 158 Cong. Rec. H738-739 (Feb. 15, 2012) (Remarks of Rep. Connolly)
  • Referred to the House Judiciary Committee (Dec. 6, 2011)
Dec. 6, 2011Access to the Court: Televising the Supreme Court, Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, 112th Cong., 1st Sess. (Dec. 6, 2011)Witnesses:

Dec. 5, 2011Televising Supreme Court Proceedings Act of 2011, S. 1945, 112th Cong., 1st Sess. (2011)
111th Congress (2009 - 2010)
Jan. 9, 2009 H.R. 429, 111th Cong., 1st Sess. (2009)
  • To permit the televising of Supreme Court proceedings
  • Sponsor Representative Ted Poe (R-TX)
  • Referred to the House Judiciary Committee (Jan. 9, 2009)
Feb. 13, 2009 S. 446, 111th Cong., 1st Sess. (2009)
  • To permit the televising of Supreme Court proceedings
  • Sponsor Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA)
  • 154 Cong. Rec. S2332-2336 (daily ed. Feb. 13, 2009) (Remarks of Sen. Specter on introduction of S. 446)
  • Permit television coverage of all “open sessions” of the Supreme Court “unless the Court decides, by a vote of the majority of justices, that allowing such coverage in a particular case would constitute a violation of the due process rights of 1 or more of the parties before the Court”
  • Senate Judiciary Committee reports measure to Senate (Apr. 29, 2010)
  • Senator Specter Press Release (Significant Progress on Cameras in the Supreme Court) (April 29, 2010)
  • 155 Cong. Rec. S10854-56 (daily ed. Dec. 21, 2010) (farewell remarks of Sen. Specter termed as a “closing argument”) ("Congress could at least require televising the Court proceedings to provide some transparency to inform the public about what the Court is doing since it has the final word on the cutting issues of the day.... While television cannot provide a definitive answer, it could be significant and may be the most that can be done consistent with life tenure and judicial independence.")
  • Blog Post: Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Measures Authorizing Cameras In The Supreme Court And Other Federal Courts
March 19, 2009 Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2009, S. 657, 111th Cong., 1st Sess. (2009)
  • Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2009
  • Sponsor Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-IA)
  • To allow the presiding judge of a circuit or district court to allow the broadcasting of federal court proceedings. Under the legislation, the face or voice of an individual may be obscured based on a showing of a threat to safety or security concerns, “the integrity of future or ongoing law enforcement operations” or “the interest of justice.” The legislation prohibits the broadcasting “of any juror in a trial proceeding, or of the jury selection process” or conferences between counsel and their clients. No interlocutory appeals would be authorized concerning the “decision of the presiding judge” to broadcast a court proceeding. The measure contains a sunset provision for district court proceedings which would extinguish the statutory authority after three years.
  • Senate Judiciary Committee reports measure without written report (April 29, 2010)
  • Blog Post: Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Measures Authorizing Cameras In The Supreme Court And Other Federal Courts
June 25, 2009Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2009, H.R. 3054, 111th Cong., 1st Sess. (2009)
  • Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2009
  • Sponsored by Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA)
  • Referred to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy (July 23, 2009)
Nov. 5, 2009 S. Res. 339, 111th Cong., 1st Sess. (2009)
  • To express the sense of the Senate in support of televised Supreme Court proceedings
  • Sponsor Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA)
  • 154 Cong. Rec. S11218-21 (daily ed. Nov. 5, 2009) (Remarks of Sen. Specter on introduction of S. Res. 339)
  • Sen. Rep. No. 448, 110th Cong., 2d Sess. (Sept. 8, 2008) (reporting a measure to permit the televising of Supreme Court proceedings)
  • Senator Specter Press Release (Significant Progress on Cameras in the Supreme Court) (April 29, 2010)
    110th Congress (2007 - 2008)
    2007S. 344, 110th Cong., 1st Sess. (2007)
    • Require the televising of Supreme Court proceedings “unless the Justices decide, by majority vote, that such coverage in a particular case would violate the due process rights of one or more of the parties”
    • Sponsor Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA)
    • Sen. Rep. No. 448, 110th Cong., 2d Sess. (Sept. 8, 2008) (reporting a measure to permit the televising of Supreme Court proceedings)
    Jan. 22, 2007Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2007, S. 352 110th Cong., 1st Sess. (2007)
    • Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2007
    • Sponsor Charles E. Grassley (R-IA)
    • 152 Cong. Rec. S837 (daily ed. Jan. 22, 2007) (Remarks of Sen. Grassley on introduction of S. 352)
    • Allow “the photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, or televising to the public of any court proceeding over which that judge presides,” at the discretion of the presiding judge of an appellate or district court
    • Senate Judiciary Committee reports measure with amendments and without a report (March 13, 2008)
    May 3, 2007Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2007 H. R. 2128, 110th Cong., 1st Sess. (May 3, 2007)
    • Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2007
    • Sponsored by Rep. Steven Chabot (R-OH)
    • Authorizes the presiding circuit or district court judge of to permit the photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, or televising to the public of court proceedings except when it would constitute a violation of the due process rights of any party
    • Measure discharged by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property Discharged (Sept. 20, 2007)
    • Measure ordered reported as amended by the committee (on vote of 17 - 11) (Oct. 24, 2007)
    Sept. 27, 2007Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2007, Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, 110th Cong., 1st Sess. (Sept. 27, 2007) (Serial No. 110-160)Witnesses:

    • Hon. Ted Poe, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas
    • Hon. John R. Tunheim, Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, on behalf of the Judicial Conference of the United States
    • Hon. Nancy Gertner, Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
    • Mr. John C. Richter, U.S. Attorney, Western District of Oklahoma
    • Ms. Susan M. Swain, President and Co-Chief Operating Officer, C-SPAN
    • Ms. Barbara Cochran, President, Radio-Television News Directors Association
    • Mr. Fred Graham, Senior Editor, Court TV
    109th Congress (2005 - 2006)
    April 18, 2005Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2005, S. 829, 109th Cong., 1st Sess. (Nov. 9, 2005)
    May 18, 2005Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2005, H.R. 2422, 109th Cong., 1st Sess. (May 18, 2005)
    Nov. 9, 2005Cameras In The Courtroom, Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, 109th Cong., 1st Sess. (Nov. 9, 2005) (Serial No. J–109–50)Witnesses:

    • Barbara E. Bergman, President, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Washington, D.C.
    • Seth D. Berlin, Levina, Sullivan, Koch and Schulz, LLP, Washington, D.C.
    • Barbara Cochran, President, Radio-Television News Directors Association, Washington, D.C.
    • Hon. Jan E. DuBois, Judge, District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Peter Irons, Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, University of California at San Diego, San Diego, California
    • Brian P. Lamb, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, C–SPAN Networks, Washington, D.C.
    • Hon. Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, Judge, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Portland, Oregon
    • Henry S. Schleiff, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Courtroom Television Network, LLC, New York, New York
    106th Congress (1999 - 2000)
    Sept. 6, 2000Allowing Cameras And Electronic Media In The Courtroom, Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee On Administrative Oversight And The Courts, 106th Cong., 2d Sess. (Sept. 6, 2000) (Serial No. J–106–104) Witnesses:

    • Hon. Edward R. Becker, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia, PA, on behalf of Judicial Conference of the United States
    • David Busiek, News Director, KCCI Television, Des Moines, IA, on behalf of the Radio-Television News Directors Association
    • Ronald Goldfarb
    • Hon. Nancy Gertner, Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
    • Lynn D. Wardle, Professor of Law, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University
    • Hon. Hiller B. Zobel, Associate Justice, Superior Court Department, Massachusetts Trial Court

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    Views of Supreme Court Justices

    As noted above, Congress has considered legislation that would authorized televised proceedings of Supreme Court proceedings. Some of the Justices have expressed their views on this proposal.

    DateArticleNotes
    March 14, 2013Testimony of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Justice Stephen G. Breyer before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government
    Feb. 18, 2013"Bucking a Trend, Supreme Court Justices Reject Video Coverage," New York Times
    • Notes Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan have reconsidered support for coverage of Supreme Court proceedings
    Sept. 13, 2010First Read From NBC News Justice Breyer speaks
    • Notes pros and cons of televised Supreme Court proceedings but does not take a position
    1994Justice Stephen G. Breyer Testimony
    • Notes general opposition to cameras in the Supreme Court
    • Testimony Video (2:26)
    2007Justice Clarence Thomas Testimony House Appropriations Subcommittee
    • Notes opposition against cameras in the Supreme Court
    • Testimony Video (2:26)
    2007Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Testimony
    • Notes opposition against cameras in the Supreme Court
    • Testimony Video (2:26)
    • "I don’t think it’s in the best interest of our institution…Our dynamic works. The discussions that the justices have with the attorneys during oral arguments is a splendid dynamic. If you introduce cameras, it is human nature for me to suspect that one of my colleagues is saying something for a soundbite. Please don’t introduce that insidious dynamic into what is now a collegial court. Our court works…We teach, by having no cameras, that we are different.”
    1990Justice David Souter
    • Noting potential distractions from clicking camers on the proceedings
    • >
    • Testimony Video (1:28)
    2009Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
    • Generally noting absence of cameras in the Supreme Court
    • >
    • Video Interview (1:08)
    1960Justice William O. Douglas
    • “Photographing or broadcasting of trials in my view imperils the fair trial of which we boast. It is not dangerous because it is new. It is dangerous because of the insidious influences which it puts to work I the administration of justice.” Justice William O. Douglas, Public Trial and the Free Press, 46 A.B.A.J. 840, 840 (Aug. 1960).

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    State Court Materials

    Most states allow cameras in the courtroom. However, the level of access may vary depending on the case and consent.

    Date Opinion Notes
    Summary Of State Standards
    2010Radio Television Digital News Association
    • Summarizing requirements in all 50 states and categorizing state standards in three tiers
    Alaska
    2012 Alaska Rule 50 (Media Coverage of Court Proceedings)
    • Application process for court approval of media coverage of court proceedings
    • Alaska Administrative Bulletin 45 (establishing "statewide procedures and standards for media coverage of judicial proceedings")
    Arizona
    2012 Arizona Rule 122 (Electronic and Photographic Coverage of Public Judicial Proceedings)
    • Specifying guidelines
    Arkansas
    2012 Arkansas Administrative Order No. 6 (Broadcasting, Recording, or Photographing in the Courtroom. Administrative Orders of the Supreme Court)
    • Specifying guidelines
    California
    2010 California Rule of Court 1.150 (Photographing, Recording, & Broadcasting in Court)
    • Specifying guidelines
    Colorado
    2010Expanded Media Coverage of Court Proceedings
    • Specifying guidelines
    Delaware
    2010Administrative Directive No. 155 (2004)
    District of Columbia
    2010
    • Specifying guidelines
    Florida
    2010Florida Judicial Administration Rule 2.450 (Technological Coverage of Judicial Proceedings)
    • Specifying guidelines
    Kansas
    2009Kansas Rule 1001 (Media Coverage of Judicial Proceedings)
    • Specifying guidelines
    Kentucky
    2006 Kentucky Court Rule 98
    • Procedures for using videotape equipment to record court proceedings
    Mississippi
    2009Mississippi Rules For Electronic And Photographic Coverage Of Judicial Proceedings
    • Specifying guidelines
    Michigan
    2009 Michigan Request And Notice For Film And Electronic Media Coverage Of Court Proceedings
    • Application forms for requesting broadcasting coverage

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    Other Materials

    Other materials on the issue of cameras and electronic devices in the courtroom are noted below:



    DateArticleNotes
    Apr. 2009 to PresentArticles on Cameras in the Court (Courtesy of CSPAN)Collecting recent articles from around the country on televising federal court proceedings
    2011Summary of the History of Cameras in the Federal Courts (U.S. Courts)Summarizing key events
    Dec. 6, 2011Gallup Poll: Televising U.S. Supreme Court Hearings On Healthcare Law"Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 72%, think television cameras should be allowed into the U.S. Supreme Court when it hears oral arguments in its upcoming review of President Barack Obama's healthcare law."
    Nov. 15, 2011Senator Charles Grassley Letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.Requesting television coverage of the Supreme Court oral arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care law)
    Nov. 15, 2011CSPAN Letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.Requesting television coverage of the Supreme Court oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act (health care law)
    Oct. 2010A. Kozinski & R. Johnson, "Of Cameras and Courtrooms," XX Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal 1107 (2010)
    March 9, 2010Public Says Televising Court Is Good for Democracy (Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™ Poll)
    • According to the poll, "three in five American voters (61%) say televising US Supreme Court hearings would be “good for democracy.” That figure compares to a quarter (26%) who say televising the court would “undermine the authority and dignity of the court.”"
    Feb. 21, 2010Cameras in our federal courts — the time has come, American Judicature Society
    • "The time has come for our federal courts to accept cameras. Some of the concerns expressed by the Judicial Conference may be valid, but that does not compel denial of access altogether. As in Florida and other states, procedural rules can be developed to address the legitimate concerns. Pilot programs can be developed to test whether the concerns can be adequately addressed. Failure to act will almost surely lead to the result predicted by Chief Judge Kozinski-Congress will step in with legislation mandating such access. (In fact, bills have been approved by both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in recent years.) Such a mandate would be undesirable both because it would deprive the courts, as the group best qualified to devise such a plan, of the opportunity to do so, and it would cause an unnecessary confrontation between two coordinate branches of government over the scope of the separation of powers."
    Sept. 24, 2009 "What Americans Know About the U.S. Supreme Court and Want Changed About the Court," (New C-SPAN/Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates Poll)
    • Poll notes that "nearly two in three (65%) want cameras in the Supreme Court (tracking closely with a 61% finding in a July 2009 C-SPAN poll conducted directly before the Sotomayor hearings)"
    May 2008McElroy and Turner, Cameras in the Courtroom
    • Reviewing procedures for excluding cameras in Florida court proceedings
    2007Peabody and Gant, Debate: Congress's Power to Compel the Televising of Supreme Court Proceedings, 156 Univ. Penn. L. Rev. 46 (2007)
    Nov. 8, 2006Lorraine H. Tong, Televising Supreme Court and Other Federal Court Proceedings: Legislation and Issues (CRS Report for Congress) (Nov. 8, 2006)
    • Useful summary of legislation, judicial guidelines and legal issues
    Oct. 2004 Cameras in the Courtroom: Limited Access Only, Texas Bar Journal (Oct. 2004)
    • “The Hawthorne effect occurs when people aware that they are being observed alter their behavior (in this case adopting vast eloquence and extreme circumspection) to meet what they imagine to be expectations of the observers.” (citation omitted)
    1998Electronic media coverage of courts appendices to a report prepared for the Federal Court of Australia
    • Comprehensive review of televised court proceedings in jurisdictions around the world) (executive summary) (recommendations)
    1994Johnson and Krafka, Electronic Media Coverage of Federal Civil Proceedings: An Evaluation of the Pilot Program in Six District Courts and Two Courts of Appeals, Federal Judicial Center (1994)
    • "Overall, attitudes of judges toward electronic media coverage of civil proceedings were initially neutral and became more favorable after experience under the pilot program
    • "Judges and attorneys who had experience with electronic media coverage under the program generally reported observing small or no effects of camera presence on participants in the proceedings, courtroom decorum, or the administration of justice"
    Jan. 1988News Cameras in the Alaska Courts: Assessing the Impact, Alaska Judicial Council
    • Assessing media plan allowing news camers in the courts and noting positive impact of greater public awareness of judicial proceedings

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    Blog Posts On Cameras in the Federal Courtroom

    Blog posts from the Federal Evidence Blog discussing the issue of cameras in the federal courtroom are available here.


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    Federal Rules of Evidence
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