News Item
Minnesota Supreme Court Orders Evaluation of Audio and Video Coverage of Criminal Proceedings

Posted: Thursday, June 24, 2021

Minnesota Supreme Court Orders Evaluation of Audio and Video  Coverage of Criminal Proceedings

The Minnesota Supreme Court has issued an order directing the Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure to consider whether the current requirements for audio and video coverage of criminal proceedings in Minnesota should be modified or expanded.
 
Audio and video coverage of court proceedings has been a critical component of public access during the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of remote technology and livestreaming for appellate court oral arguments, district court hearings, and a criminal trial provided increased transparency and accessibility at a time when physical access to court facilities was limited.
 
“Public interest in and access to judicial proceedings is vital to the fair, open, and impartial administration of justice,” said Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea. “Technology allowed us to keep a window to our courts open during the pandemic, and provides us with the opportunity to ensure accessibility and transparency of our public proceedings. The time is right to consider whether the current requirements for audio and video coverage of criminal proceedings in courtrooms should be amended to accommodate broader public access.”
 
The General Rules of Practice that govern audio and video coverage of criminal proceedings were last updated in 2018 following a two-year pilot project that included broad stakeholder and public input. The input and data gathered from that pilot project helped the Court conclude that expanded media coverage of criminal proceedings can be allowed while maintaining an appropriate balance between the fundamental right to a fair trial, society’s interest in public proceedings, and the judiciary’s interest in the fair and impartial administration of justice.
 
As a result of that process, Rule 4 of the General Results of Practice currently authorizes audio and video coverage in certain criminal proceedings in district court. Coverage is allowed with the consent of all parties before a guilty plea has been accepted or a guilty verdict is returned. After a guilty plea is accepted or a guilty verdict is returned, coverage is allowed without the consent of the parties unless the judge finds good cause to prohibit coverage.
 
Under the new order from the Supreme Court, the Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure will review the current rules and update the information obtained during the previous pilot project to determine whether the requirements for audio and video coverage of criminal proceedings should be modified or expanded.

The Committee, which is composed of judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, will file a report with recommendations by July 1, 2022. A public comment period is typically held once the report has been filed and before the Supreme Court adopts any permanent rule changes.
 
For more information, read the Supreme Court Order (ADM10-8049).