Proposed amendments to Rule 22 — controlling cameras in the courtroom — could compromise access to justice.
With the proposed changes to Rule 22 — if the judge isn’t seated on the bench — then the media could be held in contempt of court and go to jail for taking photos in the courtroom after a hearing.
Courts should remain open and accessible to the public, and recording should be allowed inside the courtroom — regardless of whether or not the judge is seated at the bench.
I try to capture on camera the hugs and handshakes — the greetings and farewells — before and after public events so viewers feel like they were actually there. The proposed amendment to Rule 22 would preclude that by the following:
- (l) Prohibitions. The following uses of recording devices are prohibited:
(1) No use of recording devices while the judge is off the bench: A person may use a recording
device in a courtroom only when the judge is on the bench, and use of a recording device must
terminate when the judge leaves the bench except for celebratory or ceremonial proceedings as
provided in subsection (f) of this rule.
Citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale video records the trial of the City of Roswell Mayor Jere Wood in the Superior Court of Fulton County on Monday, May 8, 2017. The Sony HD prosumer camcorder mounted atop a six-foot-tall Manfrotto tripod — purchased from B&H Photo Video in New York City — shoots over passersby. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Watson.
Following are a series of related articles about recording in courtrooms.
Please see below to submit a comment to the council.
Proposed Amendments to the Uniform Rules of Superior Court
by Georgia Superior Courts, January 27, 2017.
The Council of Superior Court Judges proposed changes to Rule 22 controlling cameras in the courtroom.
Please submit comments in writing to:
Council of Superior Court Judges
18 Capitol Square, Suite 104
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Comments may be faxed to (404) 651-8626.
To be considered, comments must be received by Monday, July 3, 2017.
[AMENDMENTS AVAILABLE ON LINK PROVIDED.]
AJC Watchdog: Will rule change make Georgia courts less public?
by Chris Joyner, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 02, 2017.
When it comes to government transparency, Georgia has a spotty track record.
Take, for example, the Georgia General Assembly, which writes the open meetings and open records laws but conveniently exempts itself from both.
But the state’s courts are a different animal. Georgia’s record for openness in its court system is pretty good, especially when it comes to allowing the media in with their cameras and recording devices. Through a combination of state law, legal precedent and a broadly written judicial rule, judges have been trained to accept that their courtrooms are open to that kind of scrutiny.
That’s why a proposed rewrite of a rule governing cameras and recording equipment inside trials is making some sunshine activists nervous. [READ MORE ON LINK.]
New Rule to Restrict Cameras in Courtrooms Could Hamper Media Access
by R. Robin McDonald, Daily Report, March 14, 2017.
The growing use of electronic devices by the public to record events and broadcast them over the internet has prompted Georgia's superior court judges to dramatically rewrite the state's longtime rule governing the presence of cameras in court.
But the proposed rewrite of what for more than 30 years has been known simply as "Rule 22" is raising questions about whether this will hamper access to—and coverage of—the courts. [FULL STORY ON LINK.]
A Surreptitious Courtroom Video Prompts Changes in a Georgia Town
by Shaila Dewan, New York Times, September 4, 2015.
An explosion of cellphone videos has brought renewed attention to police practices, provoking criticism, indictments and talk of criminal justice overhaul. Courtroom videos of judges in action, however, are far rarer.
But one surreptitious video in a small-town Georgia court has led to an overhaul of court practices there. The video showed the judge threatening to jail traffic violators who could not come up with an immediate payment toward their fines. [MORE ON LINK.]
Hear no evil: Cobb cuts audio from courtroom video
by Bill Rankin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 27, 2016.
The always-on security cameras mounted above the judge’s bench in Cobb County courtrooms have the potential to embarrass jurists who are between cases and may forget they’re on a live mic.
So county attorneys have come up with a novel solution that could prevent any gaffes winding up on YouTube. Until now the recordings were available to anyone willing to pay the copying fees. Now, however, the public is still allowed to see the video, but the county officials have decided that the audio belongs to the court, not necessarily to the public. So a public records request for the video will get you just that: the video. With no sound. [FULL STORY ON LINK.]
Do Cameras in Courtrooms Make a Difference?
by Deb Beacham, My Advocate Center, May 21, 2017.
There is no question that our citizens are safer when there is transparency in legal matters, but some judges are going out of their way, even issuing gag orders to media in addition to parties and sealing records in select cases, to prevent a review of what goes wrong in child custody matters when laws, facts and evidence are ignored or concealed from the court. [CONTINUED ON LINK.]
Disgraced former Ga. judge behind push to abolish judicial watchdog group
Brendan Keefe, WXIA, March 30, 2017.
A former state judge who stepped down after allegations of misconduct is trying to get rid of the the watchdog agency that went after him. [WATCH ON LINK.]