Why Are There Cameras in Courtrooms Anyway?

Monday, July 08, 2013

Nancy S. Marder, Professor of Law and Director of the Jury Center at IIT Chicago Kent College of Law, discusses the live broadcast of the Zimmerman trial, the lack of cameras in the Supreme Court, and whether televised proceedings are good for the justice system

Watch: Supreme Court Justices on Cameras in the Courtroom


Nancy S. Marder

Comments [11]

Jerrianne Hayslett

Why are there cameras in courtrooms? For the same reason there are cameras in other branches of government proceedings. They are public -- or are supposed to be public. Why should a member of the public be able to sit in the courtroom and watch, but not be able to sit in their living rooms or at their computers and watch? My quibble is with the way some camera operators and/or editors try to hype or heighten drama with creative zooming and/or editing. All courtrooms should be equipped with wall-mounted cameras -- some are so small they are hardly noticed -- that the news media can access for their reporting purposes. That is what I recommend in "Anatomy of a Trial" and my talks to judicial, legal and media groups. As for Scalia, his arguments are specious. Who is he to say what people would find boring. A diversity of people watch trials. Just think what a teaching tool footage of the SCOTUS would be for law and journalism students, for tax lawyers, etc. And the print media do and have always done what Scalia criticizes the visual media of doing -- lift short excerpts and quotes -- for their reports. When has Scalia ever seen the entire transcript of a proceeding printed in a news story? News stories -- some just a few inches long -- are always recaps of what happens in court.

Jul. 13 2013 10:03 AM

The first caller (Joyce was her name, if I recall correctly) sounded conscientious and intelligent and made a compelling argument that trials of private citizens should not be televised out of respect for the families (of both the victim as well as the defendant).

"Bob" wrote (Jul. 08 2013 11:38 AM),
"In our free society, the TV or cable station should decide whether to show it -- not the justices."

Cable? If trials are to be filmed/televised, why should only those who can afford cable or other commercial, pay-restricted outlets operated by profit-driven entities?

Incredibly, this is exactly the situation we have for many political candidate debates, including those for the Presidential primaries. Outrageous.

@"fuva from harlemworld":
"...the family of the accused, who is innocent until proven guilty."

Do you extend that to George Zimmerman?

Jul. 11 2013 07:39 AM

Scalia, as usual, misses the mark when he says many people would find Supreme Court arguments boring. Some people would find them very interesting. For example, if the case is about medications, then pharmacy-industry employees, liability lawyers, and people who have been harmed by certain drugs might find the arguments fascinating. Just because the audience may be small, is no reason to ban cameras. In our free society, the TV or cable station should decide whether to show it -- not the justices.

Jul. 08 2013 11:38 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Having sat on a jury before, as well as having visited night court as a paralegal student, I noticed that, unfortunately, not only are prosecutors and defenders often less than competent, but perpetrators and witnesses are often unreliable by virtue of their lack of education, inability to express themselves properly, inability to remember and explain a series of events in order, ad nauseum. You only need to watch Judge Judy and all of the other reality courtroom dramas to know what I mean (although the TV judges often cover up by doing most of the talking so the barely literate participants don't have to display the full extent of their ignorance).

The Constitution grants us the right to be tried by a jury of our peers, but I must say that few of the participants in a court of criminal law are indeed peers in any sense of the term.

Jul. 08 2013 11:29 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Good point caller about exposing families who did not ask for it. Including the family of the accused, who is innocent until proven guilty.

Audio feeds seem a good compromise between protecting the innocent and transparency.

Jul. 08 2013 11:25 AM
Bassett from Chappaqua

Yes on cameras in the courts. BTW, more than one Justice has said that the questions at the Supreme Court level are more about the Justices arguing among themselves than about actually getting more info from the lawyers before them. After all, these lawyers have submitted many pages for the Justice's review.

Jul. 08 2013 11:23 AM

When the Constitution was written, only those who had the time could come to the court sessions came! But I do think that court transcripts be made more affordable to those who want it; currently many cases require you to pay sometimes hundreds of dollars for a transcript!

Jul. 08 2013 11:21 AM

what about just having audio from the Supreme Court? Or in any courts?

Jul. 08 2013 11:15 AM
John from NYC

I am in favor of cameras.

For too long those in the justice system think they are a private elite.

My copy of the Constitution says trials shall be OPEN. It does not say "Open for those who can take a week off from work and win a lottery for a ticket."

Jul. 08 2013 11:13 AM
gary from queens

For a long time, I've enjoyed watching speeches and public forums on CSPAN. And often I would see the "news interpreters" in MSM excerpt portions for the nightly news. And almost all the time, you see the liberal slant. So the public, through the news interpreters, receives a slanted view of public policy issues as a result.

I've seen this happen with the Zimmerman trial as well. But whenever something is shown in its entirety, at least it's "out there" for THOSE WHO WISH TO OBTAIN A COMPLETE PICTURE, and not rely on the news interpreters.

The Chief Justice of SCOTUS has always objected to cameras because he knows that most people will just watch the news interpreters who cover a case, and not sit through all the oral arguments, let alone read all the briefs. And the news interpreters will will excerpt only the sensational portions of an oral argument, when someone cracks a joke here or maybe a heated exchange there. All being not representative of the case, and making SCOTUS lose respect.

There's always that risk. But that's just Justice Roberts concerned with the reputation of SCOTUS. I think that the public which really wants to sit through everything should trump Roberts' narrow concern.

Jul. 08 2013 09:58 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Three cameras?

Thank Desi Arnaz.

Jul. 08 2013 09:53 AM

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