Cameras in Federal Courts

June 8th, 2011

Tony Mauro has a cool piece about a pilot program to introduce cameras in federal courts. It seems civil recordings will only be recorded in limited circumstances with the parties consent.

Under the new rules, no live broadcasts will be permitted, but the video will be posted at some later point on the federal courts’ central Web site as well as the local court’s site, at the court’s discretion. It is entirely up to the judge which cases are recorded, and “it is not intended that a grant or denial … be subject to appellate review,” the guidelines state. The judge must inform court participants that a proceeding is being recorded, and can impose additional restrictions on the recording.

The cameras must be under the complete control of the court, according to the rules, and cameras either owned by the court or a contractor with the court will be used. No photos of jurors, jury voir dire, or sidebar conferences will be permitted.

What’s more, the presiding judge must have the ability to switch off the coverage at any time, and can do so to protect the rights of parties and witnesses, the dignity of the court, or “for any reason considered necessary or appropriate” by the judge.

I previously blogged about more ambitious plans in Massachusetts to introduce cameras into proceedings. I also blogged about New York’s emergency court plans, whereby certain proceedings can be done via video conference if travel is impossible (during¬†quarantines, for example).

I wonder how long it will take before Federal District Courts permit attorneys to appear via video. Federal Bankruptcy Courts already permit this.

While I’m sure advocacy in person is always better,for clients looking to cut back on travel costs, this may be a viable option.

Or, rather than transporting a prisoner to a Court for a 5 minute proceeding (at great taxpayer expense), do it via video-conferencing.

Yes, I know there are certain due process issues. But it’s interesting to think about.