Tina Trenkner is the Deputy Editor for GOVERNING.com. She edits the Technology and Health newsletters.E-mail: email@example.com
A pilot program by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals allowing courts to experiment with broadcasting non-jury civil cases raises issues about cameras in the courtroom.
The federal trial in which California's Proposition 8 will be challenged is controversial for two reasons: the legal issue and the broadcasting issue at stake. A federal judge for Perry v. Schwarzenegger originally ruled that the trial could be streamed in real time to other federal courthouses and broadcasted on YouTube on a time-delay. The broadcasting may have been possible through the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit's unanimous approval of a pilot program, allowing the district courts within its jurisdiction (which would be the western states) to experiment with broadcasting civil non-jury trials. Lots of issues arise when considering allowing cameras in the courtroom: Cameras can intimidate witnesses and create a distracting media frenzy, but cameras also allow the public to see how the legal process works. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay prohibiting any broadcasting--YouTube or otherwise--until January 13, allowing the justices more time to consider any implications.
Updated January 15, 2010: The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled 5-4 Wednesday that Perry v. Schwarzenegger could not be broadcasted on YouTube. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the majority said the public comment period prior to approving broadcasts wasn't long enough.