NPPA Submits Comments On Changing Court Broadcast Rules

Mar 2, 2010

DURHAM, NC – In mid-January the U.S. Supreme court ruled 5-4 to prevent the broadcast of a Proposition 8 civil trial concerning gay marriage in the U.S. District Court for Northern California. The case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, was decided on procedural grounds as to whether or not the District Court’s amendment of its local rules to broadcast the trial complied with federal law. The High Court held that they did not and stayed the planned recording of the proceedings for later broadcast on You Tube.

Not to be deterred, federal judge Vaughn Walker approved a revision of Civil Local Rule 77-3, adding the underlined language (below) to the court’s rules on “Photography and Public Broadcasting.” Those rules state that “unless allowed by a Judge or a Magistrate Judge with respect to his or her own chambers or assigned courtroom for ceremonial purposes or for participation in a pilot or other project authorized by the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit, the taking of photographs, public broadcasting or televising, or recording for those purposes in the courtroom or its environs, in connection with any judicial proceeding, is prohibited.”

What that means is the District court is proposing a pilot program to allow audio visual coverage of courtroom proceedings.

A period for comment on the proposed rule change began on February 4, 2010, and ends on March 4, 2010, and the National Press Photographers Association's Advocacy Committee submitted its comments yesterday. NPPA's submission may be seen in its entirely online here.

NPPA'S General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher drafted the comments with input from NPPA past president Alicia Wagner Calzada, the chair of NPPA's Advocacy Committee.

Osterreicher wrote that “the NPPA submits this comment supporting the approval of the revision of Civil Local Rule 77-3 adding the language 'or for participation in a pilot or other project authorized by the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit' as an exception to the current prohibition against the taking of photographs, public broadcasting or televising, or recording in connection with any judicial proceeding in the courtroom or its environs. Additionally, the NPPA offers the service and vast expertise of its members should the Judicial Council wish any additional input and advice for the implementation of the pilot/project and/or its oversight during the trial period.”

NPPA's comments concluded by saying “with very minimal change the general public will have the opportunity to see for itself the fair administration of justice. The courtroom trial has been a fixture of justice and fairness throughout our nation’s history. Modern technology can foster and enhance this tradition, if allowed to do so by permitting the taking of photographs, public broadcasting or televising, or recording for the purpose of participation in a pilot or other project authorized by the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit.”

NPPA's complete submission is online here as an Adobe PDF document.