Jul 27, 2015

The Experiment Ends: With What Result?

The federal courts have announced the end of the four-year experiment in which selected federal cases were recorded with video cameras and the videos posted online. The next step, according to the Judicial Conference, will be the creation of a camera policy for all federal courts, possibly at a meeting in March.

We've been down this road before. The federal courts conducted a similar test of camera coverage of civil trials in several federal district courts from 1991 through 1994. While the results led to a recommendation that federal courts allow televised proceedings, the federal Judicial Conference rejected this recommendation, concluding that “the intimidating effect of cameras on some witnesses and jurors was a cause for serious concern."

In 1996 the Judicial Conference allowed each federal Circuit to decide the issue for itself: leading the  Second and Ninth circuits to allow the limited use of cameras in non-jury civil cases, and the other circuits to continue to bans (except for those in the experiment). But any Judicial Conference recommendation based on the results of the experiment will be influential on the circuits' policies regarding cameras, and may also affect the U.S. Supreme Court's stance towards cameras in its proceedings.

In the meantime, while the experiment has officially ended, individual courts may continue to record and post videos. And many federal trial courts and most circuit courts routinely post audio of their proceedings even the U.S. Supreme Court does this.

But the U.S. Supreme Court, and the federal courts in general, have been hostile to the cameras in courts. Hopefully that will change with the analysis of the latest camera experiment, so that eventually Americans will be able to see their courts in action without the need to travel to the courthouse.

Jul 15, 2015

Judge Quits Blogging, Again; But It Still Can Be Done

Federal district court judge Richard G. Kopf has announced that he will stop writing his blog after being criticized for a controversial post: the second time that he was made such an announcement.

Jun 22, 2015

Supreme Court's Camera Pananoia Snares Intern

Politico reports that there has been another instance of an unauthorized camera in the Supreme Court: this time, by a CNN intern in the court's press room.

Jun 11, 2015

Tweeting Penalty Has Bad Character

An Arkansas judge has found the managing editor of a television station in contempt for tweeting the verdict in a murder case, despite explicit instructions from the judge not to do so. But the "punishment" imposed by the judge may create new problems.

May 28, 2015

Another One Bites the Dust: Minnesota's Criminal Libel Law Struck Down

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has held that the state's criminal libel law (Minn. Stat. section 609.765), which allows for punishment of up to one year imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $3,000 for statements "which expose[] a person or a group, class or association to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation or disgrace in society, or injury to business or occupation,"is unconstitutionally overbroad. Minnesota v. Turner, No. A14-1408 (Minn. App. May 26, 2015).

May 22, 2015

My Latest Publications

I've been a bit remiss in updating this blog, while I worked through the end of the spring semester at LSU.

But earlier this month, my latest work was published, in The SAGE Guide to Key Issues in Mass Media Ethics and Law (available through the publisher, and even through and

Apr 6, 2015

Another Supreme Court Video Surfaces, Showing Folly of Camera Ban

For the third time in about 14 months, activists have released a video of them interrupting proceedings of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mar 24, 2015

A Little Sprucing Up

This blog is almost six years old now, and I thought it could use a facelift. So there's a new design, which still retains some of the old elements.