U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Inevitability of Electronic Media Access to Federal Courts

NCJ Number
Detroit College of Law Review Volume: 1983 Issue: 4 Dated: (Winter 1983) Pages: 1303-1310
T R Julin
Date Published
8 pages
Because it now is possible to televise and photograph trials in a nonobtrusive fashion which neither lessens courtroom decorum nor infringes on parties' fair trial rights, absolute bans on electronic media in the Federal courts should be eliminated.
In the bribery trial of the U.S. District Judge Alcee L. Hastings, Judge Gignoux held that exclusion of the electronic media was mandated by Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 20 of the General Rules of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Canon 3A(7) of the Code of Judicial Conduct for U.S. Judges, and Resolution G of the Judicial Conference of the United States. None of the parties had requested exclusion, but the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld Judge Gignoux's order. Both rulings commented that attacks on electronic media rules should be addressed to appropriate legislative bodies rather than to the courts. Subsequently, 28 media organizations filed a petition with the Judicial Conference asking it to recommend repeal of the bans on electronic media access and to adopt a Florida-type access rule. The Conference must act swiftly on this petition, or the courts can anticipate that the constitutionality of the existing prohibitions will be raised in many cases. States have proven that electronic media coverage of trials may be accomplished in a way that is consistent with order, decorum, and all constitutional principles. The Supreme Court recognized this in Chandler v. Florida, which upheld the Florida law allowing media coverage of trials. Moreover, two decisions by the Supreme Court -- Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia and Globe Newspapers v. Superior Court -- recognize that absolute legislative bans are inappropriate for the resolution of access questions concerning the judicial system. The paper includes 18 footnotes.