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Published: Friday, 11/18/2005

U.S. judge supports cameras in court


As the U.S. Senate debates a bill that would allow televised proceedings in federal courts, U.S. District Judge James Carr has a strong opinion on the issue for the courthouse in Toledo.

While acknowledging that a majority of his colleagues on the federal bench don't share his view on the topic, Judge Carr said he welcomes the legislation that would open the courthouse doors to cameras.

The House of Representatives recently approved a courthouse security measure that includes provisions that would give federal judges and the U.S. Supreme Court discretion to allow photography, electronic recording, broadcasting, and television in their courtrooms.

A hearing on the measure was held last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"To permit individual judges to exercise their individual discretion on individual cases I think is a good thing," Judge Carr said. "I have felt for a long time that it was not appropriate on the part of the federal judiciary to prohibit cameras in the courtroom absolutely and without exceptions."

According to the National Center for State Courts, the decision to permit cameras in courtrooms can be controversial.

Those in favor of allowing the devices contend that cameras can broaden access to the courts, but others feel their presence may interfere with an individual's right to a fair trial, and cite instances of attorneys playing to the cameras and witnesses feeling reluctant to testify.

All states permit some form of televised coverage in their courts. Ohio has allowed electronic media coverage since 1982, and the state Supreme Court began televising oral arguments in 2004.

Judge Carr said that camera coverage may not be appropriate for all proceedings, and that requests by the media would be evaluated after consulting with the parties involved in the case.

U.S. District Court judges are prohibited under judicial standards from allowing cameras in the courtrooms for criminal and civil proceedings. However, appellate judges in the 2nd Circuit in New York City and the 9th Circuit in San Francisco have the discretion to allow cameras under an experimental program.

Judge James Bates of Lucas County Common Pleas Court said having cameras in the courtrooms has been a relatively positive experience and has allowed the courtroom experience to be shared by a larger audience.

"The public has been given a look into the courtroom process, and they can see the type of cases we are dealing with," he said.

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