Cameras in the Courtroom

In 1996, the Indiana Supreme Court implemented an experimental program to study use of cameras in its courtroom. Prior to that decision, Indiana was one of only three states that did not allow the media to bring cameras, audio- or video-recorders into any court proceedings.

The Supreme Court project regulates the number of cameras or recorders allowed in the court, the placement of equipment and media personnel, and limits the movements of the equipment and personnel during a proceeding. The media also is prohibited from recording conferences between lawyers and their clients or their co-counsel during a proceeding.

In 1997, the Indiana Court of Appeals became a part of the experiment and authorized the use of cameras and microphones for media coverage of oral arguments held before the three-judge panels.

To cover a Supreme Court argument, the media must fax a request to be a candidate for the media pool prior to the argument date. No formal rule exists that requires submission of a request by a specific deadline, but it is recommended that any photographer wishing to cover the hearing contact the Court approximately 48 hours prior to the scheduled time. If there are more requests than positions, the Court will select individuals by random drawing.

The Court of Appeals guidelines allow the judicial panel hearing the case to determine whether cameras or recorders would detract from the process or argument. The media must request permission from the three-judge panel hearing the case to allow equipment in the courtroom. The request must be submitted 48 hours prior to the scheduled time for the appellate argument.

At the trial court level, the use of cameras and recorders is prohibited during official court proceedings as outlined in Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 2.17 in both the courtroom and areas immediately adjacent to the courtroom.

On two occasions, the Supreme Court did give special permission for video-camera coverage of some juvenile court proceedings for the filming of a news documentary that was broadcast by an Indianapolis television station and by a national news network.

Based on material provided by then-Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Sanford Brook to the first Law School for Journalists Seminar, June 1999.