Witness Impact Rules TV out of Federal Courts

Article excerpt

Many supporters of cameras in the courts consider the federal bench to be the last great bastion to conquer. Last September, as pretrial testimony in the Simpson case saturated the airwaves, the judges who set the rules for federal courts stunned observers by rejecting a strong recommendation that cameras be allowed in federal proceedings. The recommendation was a result of a three-year experiment with cameras that began in July 1991. Six district courts allowed cameras to record civil proceedings for the first time to determine the impact of the technology. As the experiment ended, a Federal Judicial Center study concluded that the experiment had been a great success. Ninety-eight percent of the district court judges who took part found the presence of the camera had no or only a minor effect on court decisions. Ninety percent of the judges said it had no or only a minor impact on their own decisions. But where witnesses were concerned, there was far less unanimity. Almost 30 percent of the judges raised concerns about the cameras' impact on witnesses' protection and attention spans. …