Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Should cameras be allowed in the (family) courtroom?

The Judge in Perry et al v. Schwarzenegger et al Challenge to "Proposition 8"
case allowed the case to be recorded and eventually uploaded to YouTube but the Supreme Court upon appeal ruled "not so fast" and stayed the broadcast until they could look into the matter further. We'll know more on Wednesday.

Having cameras in a family law case has far reaching implications because it sets a precedent that other courts can follow when dealing with sensitive or political issues. Imagine having your entire family history paraded before the public for the benefit of an official's agenda (judges here in Texas are elected). Testifying in court is already intimidating - even more so with the knowledge that the public is watching. Attorneys already endure challenges in getting witnesses to testify in these matters. With cameras involved, it only adds more pressure on the parties and drives up the costs of litigation. The judicial process IS transparent. All you have to do is head down to your local courthouse and sit in on a few hearings or trials. Most are open to the public. If it's a big case like this one, follow a reporter who's tweeting or blogging about it. Watch the pundits. Order a transcript on a case. Thankfully, this case focuses solely on the constitutional question of whether same-sex marriage should be recognized. I would hate to see a custody battle via live broadcast. Then again, maybe an airing would inspire viewers to work on their marriage or pursue alternative dispute resolutions.

UPDATE on 11/13/2010: Supreme Court says no to cameras ruling that the lower federal court did not "follow the proper procedures" when it permitted recording. Justice Breyer dissented along with Stevens, Ginsburg and Sotomayor saying that the public interest outweighed any irreparable harm to witnesses. I must admit I am a bit disappointed but have been thoroughly entertained by the tweets of activists who are at the proceedings.