Judge Kathleen Gearin gave a robust argument for allowing the televising of court proceedings in civil and criminal cases in Minnesota, a position developed over the past ten years. She said her personal experience with cameras in her courtroom has been only positive. For example, the televised hearings during the 2011 state government shutdown helped the public understand the process.
She noted many reasons that judges and lawyers oppose opening up courtrooms to televised coverage. Judges are afraid of the unknown, and many are uncomfortable with public speaking. They are afraid that single sentences may be broadcast out-of-context, that cameras will bring more publicity to cases, and that it will be more difficult for juries. Judges and attorneys will play to the cameras. Witnesses don’t want to be seen as snitches. Minnesota has a collegial bench, and some judges don’t want to be considered oddballs, or “hot dogs.”
To counter those arguments, Judge Gearin said that in practice judges quickly forget that the camera is even there, and the media have been respectful of the privacy of juries and witnesses. During the question and answer period someone asked whether there is a particular state that allows cameras in the courtroom that would be a good model for Minnesota. Her matter-of-fact response was that all the states allowing cameras in the courtroom are fine models.
Judge Gearin feels that a successful move to full use of cameras in the courtroom in civil and criminal cases will require broad acceptance in the legal community, and that the legal culture in Minnesota is slowly changing.
I recommend watching all of Judge Gearin’s interesting and thoughtful remarks, available here.