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Indiana courts take backseat on camera study

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As yet another study concerning cameras in the courtroom is about to begin, Indiana doesn’t appear to be anywhere closer to allowing cameras in its state or federal trial-level courtrooms.

While the federal judiciary and other states move forward on studying whether cameras should be allowed in courtrooms, the Hoosier legal community waits and remains cautious about moving forward or putting a policy in place.

The Indiana Supreme Court conducted a limited 18-month pilot project and has been studying the issue, but it has not released a decision based on a final report it received March 31, 2008. Meanwhile, a recent pilot project at the federal level is moving forward and District courts throughout the country are being asked to volunteer and allow some cases to be filmed.

In September, the federal judiciary’s policy-making arm, the Judicial Conference of the United States, authorized a pilot project allowing cameras in some District courts. Recording will be limited to civil cases at the trial judge’s discretion, and all parties must give their consent. The recordings will be publicly available on the federal court’s website and local District sites. An exact length for the project hasn’t been determined, but it’s expected to stretch at least three years with the Federal Judicial Center conducting a study in the initial years and issuing a report.

Volunteers are being accepted for the next couple months. Due to ongoing congressional budget issues and fiscal constraints, courts that already have existing audio and videoconferencing are encouraged to use that equipment.

“We especially want to ensure that judges who hold a range of views on the recording of courtroom proceedings will participate,” said U.S. Judge Julie A. Robinson from the District of Kansas, who chairs the conference’s Committee on Court Administration and Case Management. “It’s important to the validity of this project to include the skeptical as well as the supportive.”

Both of Indiana’s federal courts say they aren’t going to participate, but neither group of District judges say they are opposed to the idea of having cameras in the courtrooms.

“We’ve decided not to participate in the pilot project, although it wasn’t a reflection of any general attitude against cameras in courts,” Chief Judge Philip Simon said in the Northern District. “There’s mixed views among my colleagues, but this was more that we didn’t want to serve as guinea pigs on it. Most are pretty supportive of the project, and we’d like to take a wait-and-see attitude rather than stepping forward and being on the forefront studying that here.”

Chief Judge Simon said he doesn’t personally have a problem with the idea of cameras in courtrooms, but said these issues move slowly because strong feelings and legitimate concerns exist on both sides.

In the Southern District, Chief Judge Richard L. Young said that his colleagues also agreed to stay out of the pilot project, but for a different reason.

“(There was) some discussion at a recent judge’s meeting, but we declined to participate in this pilot project because we were involved in the first one in the early 1990s. This time, other courts should be given the opportunity to participate,” he said.

Despite the decision not to volunteer for this program, Chief Judge Young said consensus among the Southern District judges is that they aren’t opposed to the concept of having cameras in the courts. But they do want to know specifically what the protocols would be to make sure they have the ability to control the process and guarantee the court’s efficiency isn’t impacted.

Chief Judge Young said he’s interested in seeing how this progresses and what districts are chosen to be a part of the pilot project. He expects a good sampling of geography, caseload, and size, reflecting all of the potential issues that might surface. For example, the Southern District of New York encompasses New York City and might not be as able to have a local TV affiliate spend time filming in court as compared to a place like the Southern District of Indiana’s Evansville division, he said.

“They are just different markets, and we need to see how that all fits together in creating a policy like this nationally,” he said.

Cameras have been banned in federal courts since 1994 and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure bar them from being used in criminal proceedings. This is the first time in about two decades the federal judiciary has changed its policy on allowing cameras in the courts. Recent changes in the makeup of the judiciary may have helped play a part in that. U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have both joined the court in the past two years and support the concept of cameras in the courtrooms, though some justices still express their opposition and concern.

“Technology has changed so much and you just didn’t have social media networks and things like Facebook in the 90s,” Chief Judge Young said. “We want to see how this plays out now, in this new world of public access.”

What impact any federal judiciary action may have on state decision-making about cameras in courts remains to be seen.

About two dozen states allow cameras to record trial-level proceedings in some way. There has been a push in recent years for further study of the issue. Earlier this year, Minnesota allowed a pilot project similar to what Indiana allowed from July 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2007. That Indiana pilot was limited – six proceedings were recorded in eight courts statewide.

A final report was submitted three years ago, but Indiana’s top court hasn’t budged on the topic. Two requests have been submitted since then asking for a new smaller study and a webcast in some Lake County civil proceedings. However, Lake Circuit Judge Lorenzo Arredondo, who was heading the webcasting proposal, retired, as have others interested in being a part of the second state pilot project.

Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard has said that the report submitted in 2008 didn’t propel the court in any particular direction, but was just one piece of useful data to compare to everything else. A lingering question has been about the balance between public information and relative burden that still exists, and the chief justice has told Indiana Lawyer that the court doesn’t have enough data to move forward.

As of March 2011, court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said the court continues studying both requests in conjunction with the first pilot project evaluation but hasn’t yet made a decision. Those looking for guidance on the issue say the clear message from the court has been that not enough data exists at this time, and that is what is driving the subsequent requests for further study.

“At this point, it’s wait and see,” said Indianapolis attorney Dan Byron, who represents the Indiana Broadcasters Association. “Our feeling has been that we didn’t have sufficient data from that (first) project, and so allowing this new pilot would allow full trials to be televised in a smaller group so that we can move forward.”•

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  1. Good luck, but as I have documented in three Hail Mary's to the SCOTUS, two applications (2007 & 2013),a civil rights suit and my own kicked-to-the-curb prayer for mandamus. all supported in detailed affidavits with full legal briefing (never considered), the ISC knows that the BLE operates "above the law" (i.e. unconstitutionally) and does not give a damn. In fact, that is how it was designed to control the lawyers. IU Law Prof. Patrick Baude blew the whistle while he was Ind Bar Examiner President back in 1993, even he was shut down. It is a masonic system that blackballs those whom the elite disdain. Here is the basic thrust:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackballing When I asked why I was initially denied, the court's foremost jester wrote back that the ten examiners all voted, and I did not gain the needed votes for approval (whatever that is, probably ten) and thus I was not in .. nothing written, no explanation, just go away or appeal ... and if you appeal and disagree with their system .. proof positive you lack character and fitness. It is both arbitrary and capricious by its very design. The Hoosier legal elites are monarchical minded, and rejected me for life for ostensibly failing to sufficiently respect man's law (due to my stated regard for God's law -- which they questioned me on, after remanding me for a psych eval for holding such Higher Law beliefs) while breaking their own rules, breaking federal statutory law, and violating federal and state constitutions and ancient due process standards .. all well documented as they "processed me" over many years.... yes years ... they have few standards that they will not bulldoze to get to the end desired. And the ISC knows this, and they keep it in play. So sad, And the fed courts refuse to do anything, and so the blackballing show goes on ... it is the Indy way. My final experience here: https://www.scribd.com/document/299040062/Brown-ind-Bar-memo-Pet-cert I will open my files to anyone interested in seeing justice dawn over Indy. My cases are an open book, just ask.

  2. Looks like 2017 will be another notable year for these cases. I have a Grandson involved in a CHINS case that should never have been. He and the whole family are being held hostage by CPS and the 'current mood' of the CPS caseworker. If the parents disagree with a decision, they are penalized. I, along with other were posting on Jasper County Online News, but all were quickly warned to remove posts. I totally understand that some children need these services, but in this case, it was mistakes, covered by coorcement of father to sign papers, lies and cover-ups. The most astonishing thing was within 2 weeks of this child being placed with CPS, a private adoption agency was asking questions regarding child's family in the area. I believe a photo that was taken by CPS manager at the very onset during the CHINS co-ocerment and the intent was to make money. I have even been warned not to post or speak to anyone regarding this case. Parents have completed all requirements, met foster parents, get visitation 2 days a week, and still the next court date is all the way out till May 1, which gives them(CPS) plenty of to time make further demands (which I expect) No trust of these 'seasoned' case managers, as I have already learned too much about their dirty little tricks. If they discover that I have posted here, I expect they will not be happy and penalized parents again. Still a Hostage.

  3. They say it was a court error, however they fail to mention A.R. was on the run from the law and was hiding. Thus why she didn't receive anything from her public defender. Step mom is filing again for adoption of the two boys she has raised. A.R. is a criminal with a serious heroin addiction. She filed this appeal MORE than 30 days after the final decision was made from prison. Report all the facts not just some.

  4. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

  5. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

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