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State Supremes open door to cameras in court

The Minnesota Supreme Court reaffirmed current camera prohibitions, but in creating a pilot program with looser rules, gave journalists a few slices of the loaf.
By David Brauer

In an order handed down Thursday morning, the Minnesota Supreme Court approved a pilot program allowing cameras in trial courtrooms. The full order, which takes effect March 1, is here.

The court reaffirmed current camera prohibitions, but with the pilot, gave journalists a few slices of the loaf. Currently, cameras are banned if the judge or any party objects. Jurors and witnesses can’t be shown without their consent, nor can attorney-client communication.

There’s also a ban on cases involving child custody, marriage dissolution, juvenile proceedings, motions to suppress evidence, police informants, relocated witnesses, sex crimes, trade secrets, and undercover agents.

The pilot gives the trial judge sole discretion to rule on cameras, regardless of whether parties or a witness objects. Bans on showing jurors or the above case types remain in place.

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Society for Professional Journalists national president and St. Cloud Times reporter Dave Aeikens, says, “The key issue will be what impact the presence of cameras will have on witnesses. The lawyers association and some judges think it will deter witnesses. We don’t think that has been the case in the states that allow cameras in the courts.”

The court directed an advisory group of judges, lawyers and journalists to organize the test, measure the impact, and raise money for a report.