Billie Sol Estes v. State of Texas
Docket No. 1965-256 381 U.S. 532, 14 L.Ed.2d 543, 85 S.Ct. 1628 ( 1965)
Argued April 1, 1965. Decided June 7, 1965.
The Court had ruled before on the televising of selected legal maneuvers related to a trial, but this is the first time it focused exclusively on the constitutional issue of televising a criminal trial.
The presence of modern mass media technology in the courtroom produced a reaction by the legal community as early as September 30, 1937, when the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association adopted the now-famous Canon 35. This Canon declares, "Proceedings in court should be conducted with fitting dignity and decorum," 62 A.B.A. Rep. 1134-35 ( 1937). In addition, it forbids the taking of photographs during sessions of the court on the theory that such an activity is "'calculated to detract from the essential dignity of the proceedings, degrade the court and create misconceptions with respect thereto in the mind of the public'" (596). Clearly, the concern in 1937 focused on the dignity of the court, not on the fairness of the trial.
Later, the vast publicity arising from the trial of Bruno Hauptmann, which was broadcast over radio, is credited with the condemnation, March 15, 1941, by the ABA's Committee on Professional Ethics of "direct radio broadcasting of court proceedings" (597).
Then in 1952 a special ABA committee on televising and broadcasting legislative and judicial proceedings condemned the practice of televising judicial proceedings. On February 5, the ABA House of Delegates adopted the following version of Canon 35, adding to the concern about dignity another concern, this one about detracting witnesses giving testimony:
"The taking of photographs in the court room, during sessions of the court or recesses between sessions, and the broadcasting or televising of court proceedings detract from the essential dignity of the proceedings,