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Advisory Committee to Hold Public HearingĀ on Cameras in Courtroom Rules

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Minnesota Supreme Court Advisory Committee on General Rules of Practice has been asked by the Court to advise it regarding the use of cameras in and around Minnesota courtrooms.  The use of cameras is currently governed by Rule 4 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice and Canon 3(A)(11) of the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct.

The advisory committee is specifically considering the Petition of Minnesota Joint Media Committee, Minnesota Newspaper Association, Minnesota Broadcasters Association, and Society of Professional Journalists, Minnesota Chapter, dated March 7, 2007 (“Petition”).

The committee previously solicited written input from interested persons or groups as to the functioning of the current rules, as well as the desirability of making any changes, including those specifically sought in the Petition.  The committee has received a presentation from the Petitioners and met with judges from Iowa and Wisconsin who have experience handling camera coverage.  The committee has scheduled a public hearing for Friday, January 11, 2008, beginning at 9 a.m. in the Judicial Center in St. Paul, to receive additional testimony on the matter from interested individuals who have not had an opportunity to address the committee in-person.

The committee welcomes comments on any aspect of the issues, but is particularly interested in gathering information and experience gleaned from the use of cameras either in Minnesota or in those jurisdictions that have permitted broader use of cameras in the courts, including:

1.      How do cameras in criminal proceedings impact the fair trial rights of criminal defendants or the state’s interests?.

2.      How does the use of camera coverage of court proceedings assist, if it does, in the administration of justice or the improvment of public access to information about the courts?

3.      Does camera coverage either advance or hinder the rights of litigants, including crime victims, civil litigants, and others.  If so, how should these interests be balanced?

4.      How does camera coverage impact non-party witnesses?

5.      How have advances in technology changed the impact cameras, microphones, and related recording equipment, have on court proceedings?   What limits are appropriate to minimize the negative effects of this equipment?

6.      In those jurisdictions where video or audio coverage of court proceedings is allowed, what impact has that coverage had on the conduct of the attorneys, judges, witnesses, or others in those matters?

7.      In those jurisdictions where video or audio coverage of court proceedings is allowed:

a.       Are there groups other than television stations, radio stations and newspapers that have requested and/or obtained either audio or video coverage of courtroom proceedings?

b.      Who provides the necessary camera and/or audio equipment?

c.       Does it lengthen, shorten, improve, or affect trials?

d.      How much advance notice does the judge receive?

e.       What constitutes good cause for not permitting use of cameras or audio recordings?

8.      What different concerns are there, if any, for proceedings in Minnesota appellate courts (the Minnesota Court of Appeals and Minnesota Supreme Court)?

9.      If the committee were to recommend the adoption of broader use of cameras in Minnesota court proceedings, what limitations or other protections should be adopted?

If you would like to make a brief, oral statement to the committee, please submit a letter requesting to appear, and explaining in general the comments you intend to make to the committee, no later than January 7, 2008.  Please submit this by mail or email (email preferred) to:

Michael Johnson, Senior Legal Counsel  
State Court Administration
140-C Minnesota Judicial Center
25 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. 
Saint Paul, MN   55155           
michael.johnson@courts.state.mn.us

and     

David F. Herr, Reporter
Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand, LLP
3300 Wells Fargo Center
90 South Seventh Street
Minneapolis, MN   55402-4140
david.herr@maslon.com

If you previously submitted written comments and simply want to present those comments, indicate that in your letter requesting to appear.  The committee reserves the right to limit all presentations appropriately.