Committee vote moves cameras closer to federal trial courtrooms

Wednesday, March 25, 1998

Photo by AP

The traditional ban on cameras in federal trial courts could be coming to an end if the House Judiciary Committee vote Tuesday is a sign of the times.

The committee voted 12-8 in favor of a bill including measures that would allow federal trial judges the option of whether to allow cameras and microphones in federal district courts.

These provisions had been included in a bill-the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act-which was introduced last April by Congressmen Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Charles Schumer (D-N.M.) and was subsequently folded into the Judicial Reform Act, which was passed in Tuesday’s vote.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any presiding judge of a court of the United States may, in his or her discretion, permit the photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, or televising to the public of court proceedings over which that judge presides, including civil and criminal trials and appeals,” read the bill.

Barbara Cochran, president of RTNDA, applauded the committee’s vote, saying: “This is a great victory for electronic journalists and the public they seek to inform. RTNDA has long supported opening courtrooms at all levels to electronic journalists so they can serve the public’s right to observe the judicial system at work.”

The bill has not yet been scheduled for a full House vote.