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Fate of courtroom cameras still unknown

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The federal judge vying to become the next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court favors having cameras in court and says she might be interested in furthering their use at the nation's highest court that has resisted the idea for decades.

During her second day of confirmation hearings Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, 2nd Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor responded to a senator's question about cameras in the courtroom by saying she's participated and volunteered to have cameras in the courtroom, and has had a positive experience allowing the access. While she would listen to all arguments from her Supreme Court colleagues on that procedure if confirmed, she also hinted that she might be a persuasive new voice on the topic.

But even with that hint of change, the Hoosier legal community continues waiting on word from the state's justices about whether a pilot project for cameras in Indiana trial courts will continue. While arguments are broadcast online for the two appellate courts, the trial level has generally been off limits up until the court decided to investigate a change in that procedure.

Justices have been considering the issue for 16 months, since a report was submitted for review to determine what may be in store for Indiana's trial courts as far as camera accessibility. The appellate docket for Pilot Project for Electronic News Coverage in Indiana Trial Courts, No. 94S00-0605-MS-00166, shows no activity since March 27, 2008.

At that time, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and Hoosier State Press Association submitted a final evaluation and summary of the pilot project that lasted from July 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2007. The report showed the 18-month process was positive based on those recordings but overall disappointing, since only six proceedings were filmed in eight different courtrooms scattered throughout the state. Evaluators noted that the state's consent rules hindered the tapings, and to improve the process the Indiana Supreme Court could modify that to allow media to record proceedings with only the approval of participating judges, rather than all of the parties involved in a case.

Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan told Indiana Lawyer today that the court is still considering the issue and hasn't made a decision.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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