Give Thanks For No. 20!

November 22, 2012 01:30

By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director

It seems appropriate today to give a little thanks for a decision this week in Utah.  The state became the 20th to allow video and audio recording of criminal and civil trial cases.
And that’s good news for all of us, as we inch closer to the day when all 50 states may eliminate any prohibitions on electronic news coverage in their state court systems.
The Utah Judicial Council voted 9-3 to allow the video coverage, beginning next spring.  Utah Supreme Court Justice Jill Parrish was quoted in the local media as saying the move was aimed at “moving us into the next era.”  The dissenting votes came from three district court judges, who felt the change limited a judge’s control of the courtroom.
“I have no fear of that,” Justice Court Judge Reed Parkin said of the new rule. “I think the public’s business is public,” he added.
That is exactly what this is all about and why RTDNA, which supported the effort, fights so hard on this issue.  And we eagerly await the day when this fight will be finished.
Utah’s new ruling expands coverage opportunities by allowing video coverage, in addition to still photography, which is already permitted.   And judges still have the right to deny cameras in cases where they can show good cause, such as cases involving children.  
The still photography rule currently in place provides for one such camera and pool coverage and the new video rule will likely follow a similar format.  And in a bow to the 21st century, the Council also changed the court’s rule regarding portable electronic devices.  Laptops, tablets and cell phones will now be allowed in the courtroom, unless a judge specifically says otherwise.
Spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said, “the Council has recognized this is the electronic age and people need their cell phones and laptops to stay in touch with their companies and their families.”
We couldn’t agree more, Ms. Volmer.  And we’re thankful for it!
RTDNA’s First Amendment counsel, Kathy Kirby, of Wiley Rein LLP, along with assistance from Kat Scott, a summer associate of the firm, recently completed the latest version of RTDNA’s popular state-by-state guide to cameras and electronic coverage in courtrooms in every state.   We’ll be updating our Utah section soon.   
And we’re very thankful for their hard work, too!