Cameras will be allowed in federal district courts, but only those
operated by court personnel and only as a test.
The Judicial Conference of the United States Tuesday (Sept. 14) approved
a pilot project to test cameras in federal district courts and the taping and
release of video from some proceedings.
The ban on cameras in federal appeals courts--though not the
Supreme Court--was lifted by the conference in 1996, but only two courts, the
Second and Ninth Circuits, currently allow them. Electronic media coverage of
criminal trails was prohibited in 1946.
There was also a limited test of coverage of civil proceedings
and appeals in the 1990s, which resulted in the decisions by the Second and
Ninth Circuits to allow cameras.
The district court test could be a long one--up to three
years--and will be at the discretion of individual trial judges. Only the
courts will be allowed to record the proceedings, jury members cannot be on
camera, and all parties must consent to the recording.
The Federal Judicial Center will study the pilot project and
produce interim reports after the first and second years.
The move was hailed by the Radio-Television Digital News
Association (RTDNA), which has been pushing for cameras in federal courts for
According to RTDNA attorney Kathy Kirby of Wiley Rein, David
Sentelle, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, cited
Congress' interest in the issue and advances in technology as reasons for
reprising the 1990s test.
Bills to allow coverage of appeals courts, including the
Supreme Court, have been repeatedly introduced in both Houses with the backing
of some high-profile legislators.