For the past year, the Utah Judicial Council has been looking into two rule changes that could increase the media’s video access to courts and permit the use of electronic devices within the courtroom.
The current rules for Utah courts allow video cameras in both the appellate and trial courts and still cameras in only the trial courts. The first rule change would permit one video camera for all media within the trial courts. The other would permit the use of portable electronic devices, like smart phones, within all courtrooms. Nancy Volmer, public information officer for the Utah State Courts, says the rule change would switch the presumption from a closed to an open court.
“With this new rule the presumption changes that the courts are open," she says. "If a court were to be closed, the judge would have to indicate on the record why he or she felt the court needed to be closed to cameras.”
Judges will still have the authority to restrict camera use depending on a case’s sensitivity. Attorney Jeff Hunt provided legal counsel to the committee. He says the rule change could improve the public’s knowledge of court proceedings.
“Now the public is going to be able to see that in a way they haven’t before. Through that, they’ll become better educated and informed about what the judiciary does,” Hunt says.
The council is taking public comment through August 24.