Courtroom Video Camera Pilot Update

With fourteen district courts participating in a three-year pilot program, more than 116,000 views have been made of the recorded videos so far; the program, which applies to civil cases, will be assessed upon the conclusion of the pilot program, as noted in the Cameras in the Courtroom Update

Recent Developments

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has made available the recent update on a pilot program in the use of cameras in federal district court proceedings. Cameras in the Courtroom Update. Under the program, which began in July 2011, more than 116,500 viewings of videos have been made. The videos include 50 court proceedings and 14 jury trials. The covered cases have involved the broad scope of federal civil jurisdiction - including claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, bankruptcy, civil rights, consumer protection, contract, diversity, environmental/land use, ERISA, labor and employment, libel and slander, patent, personal injury/wrongful death, RICO, securities/commodities, tax, trademark and voting matters. See Cases Participating In Video Pilot Program; see also Cameras in the Courtroom History.

The most popular recording at the end of 2012 was 17,667 viewings of a trial in the Northern District of California concerning unauthorized surveillance of telephone and internet activity under the Constitution and certain statutes in the class action in Jewel v. National Security Agency, No. 08-cv-04373 (NDCA). See Case Summary. The case presents interesting issues concerning the state secrets privilege; see generally Plaintiffs’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Rejecting the Government Defendants’ State Secret Defense; Government’s Reply in Support of Second Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment; Government Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment.

Pilot Program Background

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 Judicial Conference Approves Pilot Project To Evaluate Cameras In The Federal District Courts; Judiciary Approves Pilot Project for Cameras in District Courts; see also Cameras Pilot Program Overview.

The three-year pilot project commenced on July 18, 2011. Many of the federal proceedings have been posted for viewing on the US Courts website. The fourteen districts that volunteered to participate in the pilot 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.

The pilot program is restricted to civil proceedings in which the parties have consented to the recording. Recorded criminal proceedings are barred under Fed. R. Crim. P. 53. Each of the participating districts must comply with Guidelines issued on July 26, 2011 by the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM).

District Court Guidance and Forms

The participating districts have provided guidance and adopted model forms for the pilot program. As one example, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington has the following guidance and model forms:

Copies of many of the model forms and General Orders are collected at the Federal Courts Pilot Program Table.

Resource Page and Library

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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