Proposed rule amendment would give judges discretion to allow cameras in court

The long-debated question of whether cameras should be allowed in the courtroom is up for conversation in a proposed rule before the Indiana Supreme Court, which is asking for public feedback on the matter.

A proposed rule amendment to Judicial Conduct Rule 2.17 would give Indiana trial court judges discretion to allow news media to broadcast, televise, record and photograph court proceedings.

In November 2021, the high court announced that members of the news media would be permitted to broadcast certain in-person proceedings via a new pilot project starting Dec. 1. The four-month experiment involved courts in Allen, Delaware, Lake, Tippecanoe and Vanderburgh counties.

The new proposed rule removes language stating that “prior approval” is required from the Supreme Court before a judge can permit broadcasting, televising, recording, or taking photographs in the courtroom and areas immediately adjacent thereto “during sessions of court or recesses between sessions.”

The proposal also removes naturalization proceedings from the list of proceedings permitted for video, camera or media coverage.

Under the proposed rule, judges could authorize “the broadcasting, televising, recording, or photographing of court proceedings or the courtroom by members of the news media” so long as the means of recording would not distract participants or impair the dignity of the proceedings.

“Under paragraph (3) of this Rule, the judge has discretion to approve or deny a request for broadcast of a court proceeding,” the proposed rule change says in the comments. “If the judge allows broadcast, the judge has discretion to interrupt or stop the coverage if he or she deems the interruption or stoppage appropriate. The judge also has discretion to limit or terminate broadcast at any time during the proceeding.”

The proposed change defines “news media” as individuals who are “employed by or representing a newspaper, periodical, press association, radio station, television station, or wire service and covered by Ind. Code § 34- 46-4-1.”

Judges would also have the discretion to determine who is admitted as news media and under what conditions. The general public would not be permitted to partake in the broadcasting, recording or photographing of proceedings under the proposed rule change.

All civil and criminal proceedings would be eligible for broadcast, except for proceedings closed to the public either by state statute or Supreme Court rules if the judge permits, and would need to comply with the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct and the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct.

Broadcast of minors, juvenile matters, sex-offense victims, jurors, attorney-client communications, bench conferences, and materials on counsel tables and judicial bench would be prohibited.

Additionally, judges could require news media to submit requests to broadcast a trial court proceeding in advance of the court proceeding under the change. The judicial officers would also have the discretion to change the notice period and would provide a copy of the request to the counsel of record and parties appearing without counsel.

Notice would be posted in the courtroom that news media personnel may be present for broadcasting purposes.

The public is asked to comment on the proposed amendments before 1 p.m. ET on Aug. 1. Comments may be submitted online or via U.S. Mail to the Office of Judicial Administration, Indiana Office of Court Services, 251 N. Illinois Street, Suite 800, Indianapolis, 46204.

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