Aug 12, 2015

Third Circuit May Join Video Party

According to Howard J. Bashman, the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in Philadelphia and hears appeals from federal cases in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Virgin Islands, is working on putting video of all of its oral arguments on YouTube.

By doing so, the Third Circuit will join the Ninth circuit in posting videos of oral arguments online: the Ninth Circuit posts them both to its own site and on YouTube.

The Third Circuit's action comes just after the federal courts announced the end of their four-year experiment of posting the full proceedings of selected federal cases, in anticipation of new policy regarding cameras in federal trial courts.

Several other federal appeals courts offer audio of oral arguments online: the First Circuit, Third Circuit, Fourth Circuit, Fifth Circuit, Sixth Circuit, Seventh Circuit, Eighth Circuit, Ninth CircuitD.C. Circuit, and the Federal Circuit, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court (which also offers transcripts). The Second and Eleventh circuits offer the recordings only upon request. Meanwhile, several federal bankruptcy and district courts post audio recordings of their proceedings to the electronic PACER database, accessible for a nominal fee.

While the debate over video camera coverage of court proceedings has raged for decades, the arguments against cameras are much weaker in appellate courts, in which there are no witnesses and no jury. So it makes sense for federal appellate courts to allow cameras, as most state appellate courts do. The U.S. Supreme Court should allow cameras as well, but that battle appears to face a long, uphill climb.

America has a long tradition of open courtrooms; in the internet era, this means online video and audio. So hopefully more appellate courts -- and even, eventually, the Supreme Court -- will follow the lead of the Third and Ninth circuits in making video of their arguments available online.


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