Court Camera Ban Proposed p. 11

By: M.L. STEIN A CALIFORNIA STATE task force recently recommended that cameras be banned from criminal pretrial proceedings and from actual trials when a jury is not present.
Its recommendation was made to the state Judicial Council, which appointed the panel to examine the issue of cameras in the courtroom following the controversy over the filming of the O.J. Simpson double murder trial.
The council sets policy for California courts whose judges currently have the discretion of permitting or banning cameras in their courtrooms.
The task force heard arguments from lawyers and judges opposed to cameras and representatives of the print and broadcast media, who urged that the discretionary system be continued. They contended the much-criticized "circus" atmosphere of the Simpson trial occurred outside the courtroom and was not created by the pool television and still cameras inside.
Made up mostly of judges and lawyers, the task force also recommended that photographers not be allowed to shoot pictures of courtroom spectators.
The prohibition on pretrial proceedings would include arraignments, bail hearings, pretrial motions and jury selection. Also off-limits to cameras would be criminal and civil proceedings where a jury is not present except for post-verdict proceedings.
The Judicial Council, which sets policy for California courts, will act on the committee's report in May. It can accept all, some or none of the task force's recommendations. However, the council is expected to impose some restrictions on cameras in the courtroom.
Los Angeles attorney Kelli Sager, who has represented print and broadcast media in a number of access cases before judges, said that forbidding pretrial camera coverage "would be an unfortunate limitation because many cases are decided in the pretrial phase."
"I hope the council will not err on the side of something that's been working in California for the past 15 years. I also believe the public needs to see what happens in the courtroom when the jury is not present as well as when it is."
Sager, who argued for camera coverage during the Simpson trial, added, however, that she was encouraged by the fact that the task force did not wholly rule out cameras in the courtroom.


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