Changes to #Rule22 Controlling Cameras in the Courtroom in Georgia

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Changes to #Rule22 Controlling Cameras in the Courtroom in Georgia

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 30th, 2017, 12:00 pm

The courthouse and the courtroom belong the people. It is the people’s house. It is a public space.

Proposed amendments to Rule 22 — controlling cameras in the courtroom — could compromise access to justice.

With the proposed changes to Rule 22 — if the judge isn’t seated on the bench — then the media could be held in contempt of court and go to jail for taking photos in the courtroom after a hearing.

Courts should remain open and accessible to the public, and recording should be allowed inside the courtroom — regardless of whether or not the judge is seated at the bench.

I try to capture on camera the hugs and handshakes — the greetings and farewells — before and after public events so viewers feel like they were actually there. The proposed amendment to Rule 22 would preclude that by the following:

  • (l) Prohibitions. The following uses of recording devices are prohibited:

    (1) No use of recording devices while the judge is off the bench: A person may use a recording
    device in a courtroom only when the judge is on the bench, and use of a recording device must
    terminate when the judge leaves the bench except for celebratory or ceremonial proceedings as
    provided in subsection (f) of this rule.


Image
Citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale video records the trial of the City of Roswell Mayor Jere Wood in the Superior Court of Fulton County on Monday, May 8, 2017. The Sony HD prosumer camcorder mounted atop a six-foot-tall Manfrotto tripod — purchased from B&H Photo Video in New York City — shoots over passersby. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Watson.


Following are a series of related articles about recording in courtrooms.

Please see below to submit a comment to the council.


Proposed Amendments to the Uniform Rules of Superior Court
by Georgia Superior Courts, January 27, 2017.

The Council of Superior Court Judges proposed changes to Rule 22 controlling cameras in the courtroom.

Please submit comments in writing to:

Council of Superior Court Judges
18 Capitol Square, Suite 104
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Comments may be faxed to (404) 651-8626.

To be considered, comments must be received by Monday, July 3, 2017.

[AMENDMENTS AVAILABLE ON LINK PROVIDED.]


AJC Watchdog: Will rule change make Georgia courts less public?
by Chris Joyner, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 02, 2017.

When it comes to government transparency, Georgia has a spotty track record.

Take, for example, the Georgia General Assembly, which writes the open meetings and open records laws but conveniently exempts itself from both.

But the state’s courts are a different animal. Georgia’s record for openness in its court system is pretty good, especially when it comes to allowing the media in with their cameras and recording devices. Through a combination of state law, legal precedent and a broadly written judicial rule, judges have been trained to accept that their courtrooms are open to that kind of scrutiny.

That’s why a proposed rewrite of a rule governing cameras and recording equipment inside trials is making some sunshine activists nervous. [READ MORE ON LINK.]


New Rule to Restrict Cameras in Courtrooms Could Hamper Media Access
by R. Robin McDonald, Daily Report, March 14, 2017.

The growing use of electronic devices by the public to record events and broadcast them over the internet has prompted Georgia's superior court judges to dramatically rewrite the state's longtime rule governing the presence of cameras in court.

But the proposed rewrite of what for more than 30 years has been known simply as "Rule 22" is raising questions about whether this will hamper access to—and coverage of—the courts. [FULL STORY ON LINK.]


A Surreptitious Courtroom Video Prompts Changes in a Georgia Town
by Shaila Dewan, New York Times, September 4, 2015.

An explosion of cellphone videos has brought renewed attention to police practices, provoking criticism, indictments and talk of criminal justice overhaul. Courtroom videos of judges in action, however, are far rarer.

But one surreptitious video in a small-town Georgia court has led to an overhaul of court practices there. The video showed the judge threatening to jail traffic violators who could not come up with an immediate payment toward their fines. [MORE ON LINK.]


Hear no evil: Cobb cuts audio from courtroom video
by Bill Rankin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 27, 2016.

The always-on security cameras mounted above the judge’s bench in Cobb County courtrooms have the potential to embarrass jurists who are between cases and may forget they’re on a live mic.

So county attorneys have come up with a novel solution that could prevent any gaffes winding up on YouTube. Until now the recordings were available to anyone willing to pay the copying fees. Now, however, the public is still allowed to see the video, but the county officials have decided that the audio belongs to the court, not necessarily to the public. So a public records request for the video will get you just that: the video. With no sound. [FULL STORY ON LINK.]


Do Cameras in Courtrooms Make a Difference?
by Deb Beacham, My Advocate Center, May 21, 2017.

There is no question that our citizens are safer when there is transparency in legal matters, but some judges are going out of their way, even issuing gag orders to media in addition to parties and sealing records in select cases, to prevent a review of what goes wrong in child custody matters when laws, facts and evidence are ignored or concealed from the court. [CONTINUED ON LINK.]


Disgraced former Ga. judge behind push to abolish judicial watchdog group
Brendan Keefe, WXIA, March 30, 2017.

A former state judge who stepped down after allegations of misconduct is trying to get rid of the the watchdog agency that went after him. [WATCH ON LINK.]

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City of Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt kicks citizen and camera out of public meeting

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 30th, 2017, 3:00 pm

So, it’s okay for the government to record the citizens, but it’s not okay for the citizens to record the government?


Cumming City Council Meeting 04/17/12
Video by the City of Cumming via an open records request.



Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt kicks citizen and camera out of public meeting 04/17/12
Nydeo by Nydia Tisdale for AboutForsyth.com.

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City of Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt mocks then-AG Sam Olens

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 30th, 2017, 3:15 pm

City of Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt mocks then-Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens. AG Olens sues Mayor Gravitt.


Georgia Attorney General calling Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt 05/22/12
Nydeo by Nydia Tisdale for AboutForsyth.com.



CBS: Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt faces lawsuit 07/25/13
Video by CBS-46.

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Counsel’s comical “Chinese fire drill”

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 30th, 2017, 3:30 pm

The “pre-shots” and the “after-party” are part of the story, too, but would be precluded by the proposed amendments to Rule 22 requiring the judge to be seated on the bench to record.

One would not be able to record “ALL RISE!” because the judge has yet to be seated.

Attorneys for the defendant — City of Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt — did not want my camera too close, so Senior Judge Robert W. Adamson instructed the parties to switch tables.

Watch counsel’s comical “Chinese fire drill” before the hearing begins.

When Mayor Gravitt takes his leave, he refuses to shake a citizen’s outstretched hand.

This would all be missed under the proposed changes to Rule 22.


Georgia Attorney General Samuel S. Olens v. Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt 07/25/13
Nydeo by Nydia Tisdale for AboutForsyth.com.

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Then-GA AG Sam Olens on recording in public spaces

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 30th, 2017, 3:45 pm

Then-Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens speaks about recording in public spaces to then-Forsyth County Commissioner-elect Cindy Jones Mills.

There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public space.


2012 ACCG Newly Elected Commissioners Conference: Sam Olens
Video by Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

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“We’re not gonna fight ~ This is a party at the Rollins’ expense!”

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 30th, 2017, 4:00 pm

Watch counsel kid about legal fees during a break in a billionaire’s case exclaiming, “We’re not gonna fight ~ This is a party at the Rollins’ expense!”

If cameras could only record when the judge is seated on the bench per the proposed amendments to Rule 22 — then this video would be unavailable.


“We’re not gonna fight ~ This is a party at the Rollins’ expense!” 10/14/15
Nydeo by Nydia Tisdale for AboutForsyth.com.

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Under proposed amendment to Rule 22, when judge vacates bench, recording must cease

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 30th, 2017, 6:00 pm

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig L. Schwall steps outside the courtroom while the defendant — City of Roswell Mayor Jere Wood — is sworn in.

Under the proposed amendments to Rule 22 — controlling cameras in the courtroom — the oath could not be recorded because the judge was not seated on the bench.


Michael Litten v. Jere Wood on Term Limits for Mayor of Roswell, Georgia 05/08/17
Nydeo by Nydia Tisdale for AboutForsyth.com.

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Proposed change to Rule 22 requires judge to be seated on the bench to record

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 30th, 2017, 7:45 pm

With the proposed amendments to Rule 22 — if the judge isn’t sitting on the bench — then the media could be held in contempt of court and go to jail for taking this photo in the courtroom after a sentencing hearing.

Image

Photos: Home invasion sentencing
Chandra Duncan, aunt of defendants Trequan Sutton and Quindarius Slade, hugs Whitney Lash at Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Atlanta home invasion: Suspect was armed when arrested, cops say
by David Markiewicz, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 21, 2015.

Suspect pleads guilty, gets life plus in violent Atlanta home invasion
by Alexis Stevens, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 28, 2016.

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Rule 22 should not require judge to be seated on the bench to record

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 30th, 2017, 8:00 pm

Image
Nydia Tisdale’s Sony HD prosumer camcorder (center) atop a silver Targus tripod at Atlanta City Hall on July 17, 2012.


In conclusion, I oppose the proposed amendments to Rule 22 because they could curtail media access.

Courts should remain open and accessible to the public, and recording should be allowed inside the courtroom — regardless of whether or not the judge is seated on the bench.


Nydia Tisdale
Citizen Journalist
Roswell, GA

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The News & Views with Gregory Howard 07/01/17

Post by Nydia Tisdale » July 1st, 2017, 7:00 pm



The News & Views with Gregory Howard on FM 107.1 WJBB Radio — with guests Nydia Tisdale, David Hancock, and Jay Torrence — discuss proposed amendments to Rule 22 controlling cameras in the courtroom on Saturday, July 1, 2017.


Proposed Amendments to the Uniform Rules of Superior Court


Please submit comments in writing to:

Council of Superior Court Judges
18 Capitol Square, Suite 104
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Comments may be faxed to (404) 651-8626.

Comments must be received by Monday, July 3, 2017 to be considered.

“Nydeo” by Nydia Tisdale for AboutForsyth.com.
Please $upport Nydeos via PayPal at NydiaTisdale@hotmail.com.

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Why are Georgia judges suddenly camera-shy?

Post by Nydia Tisdale » July 23rd, 2017, 3:00 pm

Ga. Judges Could Restrict Use Of Smartphones In Courtrooms
by Michael Jones, All Things Considered, WABE 90.1 FM, July 25, 2017.

Georgia judges are considering measures that could make the state's Superior Courts less accessible to the public.

The justices are concerned about the use of electronic devices.

Georgia's Superior Court judges could vote Wednesday to restrict the use of smartphones, laptops and other portable electronic devices in their courtrooms. [FULL STORY ON LINK.]


Judges debate court recordings
by Wes Wolfe, The Brunswick News, July 25, 2017.

The future of just how open superior courts should be is a topic of debate this week for the state Council of Superior Court Judges at its conference at the King & Prince resort on St. Simons Island, where judges are assessing changes to Uniform Superior Court Rule 22, which governs recording devices in courtrooms. [CONTINUED ON LINK.]


Update: Proposed rule change could restrict access to Georgia courts
by John McCosh, Georgia First Amendment Foundation, July 24, 2017.

Council of Superior Court Judges to vote by Wednesday on whether to curb electronics in courtrooms.

Georgia courts are one step closer to becoming less accessible to the public.

On Monday, at a meeting on St. Simons Island, members of the uniform rules committee of a state judicial council voted to embrace rule changes that would presumptively restrict the use of laptop computers, smartphones and other portable electronic devices in courtrooms statewide. [READ MORE ON LINK.]


Why are Georgia judges suddenly camera-shy?
by Chris Joyner, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 21, 2017.

The Council of Superior Court Judges is considering changes to the rule allowing news cameras in the state’s courtrooms, raising alarms among transparency advocates.

The council is attempting to rewrite a courtroom rule known as “Rule 22,” which governs how and when news organizations and others can shoot photos and roll cameras during trials.

The council, of which most people have never heard, is meeting Monday to discuss the proposed new rule. The meeting will be at St. Simons Island — but let’s set that aside for now. [READ MORE ON LINK.]


Georgia Judges Set to Eye Changing Rule Over Use of Electronic Devices in Courtrooms
by R. Robin McDonald, Daily Report, July 21, 2017.

Georgia's Superior Court judges are set to meet Monday to consider a major overhaul of a court rule in place for decades governing the use of cameras and electronic recording devices in courtrooms across the state.

That rule, Rule 22, was adopted three decades ago largely to regulate and set standards for news media use of news cameras and other recording devices during court proceedings. But with the proliferation of personal electronic devices able to make video and audio recordings, coupled with the explosion of social media, the state's judges have been prompted to propose dramatic changes to the longtime rule. [FULL STORY ON LINK.]


Proposed rule change could restrict access to Georgia courts
by John McCosh, Georgia First Amendment Foundation, July 20, 2014.

A statewide judicial council is scheduled to meet Monday to consider a rule change that could result in less public access to courtrooms.

The Council of Superior Court Judges of Georgia is meeting on St. Simons Island to evaluate proposed amendments to so-called “Rule 22.”

Rule 22 — officially “Uniform Superior Court Rule 22: Electronic and Photographic Recording of Judicial Proceedings”— was enacted in 1985, when Georgia was at the forefront of efforts to make court proceedings and records more open to the public. [MORE ON LINK.]

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Comment to the Council of Superior Court Judges of Georgia on Rule 22 controlling cameras in the courtroom

Post by Nydia Tisdale » July 23rd, 2017, 8:00 pm

Comment to the Council of Superior Court Judges of Georgia

FROM: Nydia Tisdale (nydiatisdale@hotmail.com)
TO: Kathy Palmer (kspalmer@bellsouth.net);
Stephen Kelley (skelley@glynncounty-ga.gov);
Shawn LaGrua (shawn.lagrua@fultoncountyga.gov);
Horace Johnson (hjohnson@co.newton.ga.us);
Shannon Weathers (weathers@cscj.org)
SENT: Mon 7/3/2017 4:00 PM
SUBJECT: Changes to Rule 22 controlling cameras in the courtroom in Georgia

July 3, 2017

President Kathy Palmer
President-Elect Stephen Kelley
Secretary-Treasurer Shawn LaGrua
Immediate Past President Horace Johnson
Counsel to the Council Shannon Weathers

Council of Superior Court Judges

18 Capitol Square, Suite 104
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

(404) 651-9994 phone
(404) 651-8626 fax

Dear Council Members and Counsel:

Thank you for accepting comments about proposed amendments to the Uniform Superior Court Rule 22 controlling cameras in the courtroom in Georgia.

As a citizen journalist, I have video recorded over 1,000 “nydeos” of public meetings of public interest with public officials conducting the business of the public, including dozens of judicial proceedings, available on my YouTube channel.

I write in opposition to the following:

(l) Prohibitions. The following uses of recording devices are prohibited:

(1) No use of recording devices while the judge is off the bench: A person may use a recording device in a courtroom only when the judge is on the bench, and use of a recording device must terminate when the judge leaves the bench except for celebratory or ceremonial proceedings as provided in subsection (f) of this rule.


The courthouse and the courtroom belong the people. It is the people’s house. It is a public space.

Proposed amendments to Rule 22 — controlling cameras in the courtroom — could compromise access to justice.

With the proposed changes to Rule 22 — if the judge isn’t seated on the bench — then the media could be held in contempt of court and go to jail for taking photos in the courtroom after a hearing.

I try to capture on camera the hugs and handshakes — the greetings and farewells — before and after public events so viewers feel like they were actually there. The proposed amendment to Rule 22 would preclude that.

The “pre-shots” and the “after-party” are part of the story, too, but would be precluded by the proposed amendments to Rule 22 requiring the judge to be seated on the bench to record.

Courts should remain open and accessible to the public, and recording should be allowed inside the courtroom — regardless of whether or not the judge is seated on the bench.

Kindly click this link to read my complete argument against this amendment — including photos, videos, articles, and discussion: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8236.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Best regards,

Nydia Tisdale

Citizen Journalist
AboutForsyth.com
1240 Oakhaven Drive
Roswell, GA 30075
(770) 594-2300 phone
(404) 316-8888 cell


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State Bar of Georgia memo on changing Rule 22 controlling cameras in the courtroom

Post by Nydia Tisdale » July 24th, 2017, 9:17 pm

STATE BAR OF GEORGIA

MEMORANDUM

RE: Proposed changes to Uniform Superior Court Rule 22
FROM: Bill NeSmith, Deputy General Counsel

The proposed changes to USCR Rule 22 have been approved by the Judicial Procedure and Administration/Uniform Rules Committee and the Executive Committee. The Board of Governors is being asked by the Council of Superior Court Judges to approve USCR Rule 22 as submitted.

Approval or disapproval by the Board of Governors of any Uniform Superior Court Rule is advisory only.

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Dear Council of Superior Court Judges, Executive Committee

Post by Nydia Tisdale » July 25th, 2017, 9:30 pm

FROM: Nydia Tisdale nydiatisdale@hotmail.com
TO: Kathy Palmer kspalmer@bellsouth.net
Stephen Kelley skelley@glynncounty-ga.gov
Shawn LaGrua shawn.lagrua@fultoncountyga.gov
Horace Johnson hjohnson@co.newton.ga.us
Stephen Scarlett sscarlett@glynncounty-ga.gov
Stephen Goss judgestevegoss@bellsouth.net
Arthur Smith arthursmith@columbusga.org
Courtney Johnson cljohnso@dekalbcountyga.gov
Gail Tusan gail.tusan@fultoncountyga.gov
Brian Amero bamero@co.henry.ga.us
Jack Partain jackpartain@gmail.com
Donald Gillis gillisd@eighthdistrict.org
Chan Caudell bccaudell@habershamga.com
Carl Brown cbrown@augustaga.gov
Shannon Weathers weathers@cscj.org
Brian Rogers buck@frg-law.com
Patrick O'Connor pto@olivermaner.com
DATE: Tuesday, 7/25/2017 9:11 PM
SUBJECT: Changes to #Rule22 Controlling Cameras in the Courtroom in Georgia


July 25, 2017

Council of Superior Court Judges
Executive Committee
President Kathy Palmer
President-Elect Stephen Kelley
Secretary-Treasurer Shawn LaGrua
Immediate Past President Horace Johnson
JAD 1 Hon. Judge Stephen Scarlett
JAD 2 Hon. Judge Stephen Goss
JAD 3 Hon. Judge Arthur Smith III
JAD 4 Hon. Judge Courtney Johnson
JAD 5 Hon. Judge Gail Tusan
JAD 6 Hon. Judge Brian Amero
JAD 7 Hon. Judge Jack Partain
JAD 8 Hon. Judge Donald Gillis
JAD 9 Hon. Judge B. Chan Caudell
JAD 10 Hon. Judge Carl Brown, Jr.
Counsel to the Council Shannon Weathers
State Bar of Georgia President Brian Rogers
Immediate Past President Patrick O'Connor

Dear Council:

On the eve of your vote to amend Uniform Superior Court Rule 22, Recording and Coverage of Judicial Proceedings, kindly click link to read several concerns regarding rewriting Rule 22.

Changes to #Rule22 Controlling Cameras in the Courtroom in Georgia

I have recorded over 1,000 videos of public meetings of public interest with public officials — including dozens of judicial proceedings, available on my YouTube channel: http://youtube.com/nydiatisdale.

The following language would prohibit the media from filming the defendant entering and exiting the courtroom, and the reaction after a verdict — if the judge has taken his leave from the bench.

(l) Prohibitions. The following uses of recording devices are prohibited:

(1) No use of recording devices while the judge is off the bench: A person may use a recording device in a courtroom only when the judge is on the bench, and use of a recording device must terminate when the judge leaves the bench except for celebratory or ceremonial proceedings as provided in subsection (f) of this rule.


Please do not limit recording to only when the judge is seated on the bench.

Thank you for your consideration.

Kind regards,

Nydia Tisdale

Video Journalist
1240 Oakhaven Drive
Roswell, GA 30075
(770) 594-2300 phone
(404) 316-8888 cell

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