OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) — A Kentucky Supreme Court proposed rule could potentially change how judges handle cameras and recording devices in courtrooms.
The Kentucky Press Association says they received a draft of a rule that was being circulated to several parties.
Court cases are typically open to cameras, but the new rule would require media and the public to seek a court order from a judge to record.
“The Kentucky Supreme Court itself and us supreme court have made very clear that open courts are a constitutional right of the public, and actually of litigants. That’s the public’s ability to see what goes on in their name, and in the court rooms, it’s what generates confidence in the legal system,” said Michael Abate, a lawyer for the Kentucky Press Association.
The Kentucky Press Association sent a letter to Kentucky Chief Supreme Court Justice Laurance B. VanMeter outlining their concerns.
Abate says the new proposed rule sends the wrong message and suggests privacy as the norm.
“Something like that certainly deserves a public airing. It should be. The rules should be widely publicized to members of the public and members of the media and broadcasters should have the right to weigh in on that. Input should be taken before anything is changed,” said the lawyer.
Chief Supreme Court Justice VanMeter responded in a statement acknowledging the people’s first amendment rights, but stated it is the “duty and obligation of judges to maintain control of their courtrooms and protect the integrity of the judicial process”.
The proposed rule would also give adult witnesses or adult crime victims the right to object to recording in courtrooms. Recording could also be prohibited if it could result in someone being exposed to threats of harm or intimidation.
“It’s vague. Two, who’s gonna decide what’s reasonable in terms of, you know, feeling threatened or vague. Three, that person’s on video getting testimony anyways in the official court record. That’s available to any member of the public,” said Abate.
Anyone who is denied permission to record during a trial would need to request a copy of the official video from court staff.
“It’s not like you’re gonna prevent somebody from being recorded, or from that information from being made public. It needs to be public,” said Abate.