June 19, 2005

Cameras in Courtrooms?

by Guest Contributor

[Jed Sorokin-Altmann] Law.com posted John Caher's article, "In Loss For Court TV, N.Y. Judges Continue Ban on Cameras in Courts," from the 6-17-05 New York Law Journal. On June 16th, the New York Court of Appeals upheld New York's ban on cameras in the courtroom, rejecting Court TV's claim that the state constitution gave grounds for "electronic access to trial proceedings."

The court's ruling found that New York's 1952 law banning cameras from courts survives challenge, even if a strict scrutiny standard were to be applied. "Additionally, the court made clear that the press has no greater right of access to the courtroom than the general public, that the state Legislature and not the courts should decide if televising trials is in the public interest and that in some applications New York's historically expansive free speech provision covers no more ground than the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It also stressed that the right to a fair trial outweighs any right of access afforded either the public or the press."

I'm throwing the question out to you: where do you stand on whether or not cameras should be allowed in the courtroom?

I have mixed feelings on the matter. As a pre-law student, I've often regretted that more courts do not televise their proceedings. When I can, I often make the trip downtown to watch trials in Boston's Suffolk Superior Court or the Boston Municipal Court, and I've always found it interesting and educational. On the other hand, the Speech courses I've taken at Dartmouth College have convinced me that cameras can change the nature of the speech. Or the trial. I very much fear how cameras might affect witnesses, and even the lawyers and judges. What audience will the trial participants be playing to? What will be running through their minds? There is a real danger here, on the trial level.

On the other hand, when it comes to a state Supreme Court, or the US Supreme Court, I think that cameras should most definitely be allowed and encouraged. The educational value outweighs any negatives here, and so long as the camera is run and operated the same way that C-SPAN and C-SPAN 2 are, I don't see it being problematic.

June 19, 2005 11:18 AM | TrackBack

I'm inclined to agree with your analysis -- at the appellate level, judges and attorneys should be able to talk about the law in a fairly dry way, and there isn't the concern about witnesses or a jury who will be affected by the presence of cameras.

Posted by: PG at June 20, 2005 12:01 PM

I could go along with cameras in the court room if the location(s) of the camera(s) changed from time to time, without notice, so that the cast of characters (judge, jury, attorneys for parties, bailifs, etc) could not play to the camera(s) without looking ridiculous, once they determine the location(s). This is sort of like pin placement in golf where the object is not to watch the birdie but to sink it. Can you imagine the bogies in the court room?

How about cameras in the law school class room. How might the students and the professor act? Up to par?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline at June 20, 2005 04:22 PM

i think that cameras shouldn't be published to the public, media already shows crime shows like CSI, Law and Order, NCIS... shows like that are giving sick people in the world ideas to get around their attack or whatever they have planned. if we publish the courtroom trials on television, other people will notice things that they could use to get around their crime and if for that matter they do go to court they would have prepared something to tell the judge and also use other statements from other trials.

Posted by: channi at October 4, 2006 11:04 PM
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