The federal courts, one of the last holdouts on television coverage, are experimenting once again with the idea but will exclude criminal cases, says the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. A pilot project beginning July 18 will put federally controlled cameras in 14 federal trial courts.
Only civil proceedings will be recorded, and both parties and the judge must consent to the recording. Said Kathleen Kirby, a partner at Wiley Rein, which represents the Radio Television Digital News Association: “On one hand, we haven't had coverage of federal courts at all, so any baby steps in the right direction I welcome. On the other hand, given how restrictive these rules appear to be, I wonder if they're going to get a meaningful sample so they really can evaluate the effects of camera coverage on federal court proceedings.” The federal judiciary did a similar study in the 1990s, and it was well received, Kirby said. “And then the O.J. [Simpson] trial happened, and everything fell off the rails,” she said.