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. …