Changes to #Rule22 Controlling Cameras in the Courtroom in Georgia

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Nydia Tisdale
Posts: 5945
Joined: August 23rd, 2010, 12:00 pm
Location: Roswell, GA

Citizen Journalist worried about rewrite of Rule 22 controlling cameras in the courtroom

Post by Nydia Tisdale » July 26th, 2017, 12:00 pm

AJC Watchdog: Will rule change make Georgia courts less public?
by Chris Joyner, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 2, 2017.

Citizen journalist worried

... [Cobb County Superior Court Judge Stephen] Schuster is one of the judges tasked with drafting the new rule. He said the proliferation of smart phones, which can not only take pictures or record video but also can broadcast them across social media networks, is a real concern among judges.

“I know you won’t shoot jurors. When we are off the bench, you won’t be shooting attorney-client stuff,” he said, referring to the professional press. “It really is the concern about the lay person at this point.”

Schuster said he doesn’t have a problem with “citizen journalists” either, but the proposed changes have folks like Nydia Tisdale on high alert.

Tisdale has made a name for herself in Georgia for pointing her video camera at politicians and government officials from city councils to candidates for the U.S. Senate and uploading them to her website. She’s been tossed out of more meetings than most Americans ever go to, so she understands the stakes.

Tisdale is worried that the new rule will reopen the question about whether people like her — watchdogs without a billion dollar media corporation backing her up — should be able to set up their cameras in a Georgia court.

“I believe it’s a public space that should be open to the public and open to recording,” she said.

Changes to court rules are public, but like so many things in government only a handful of people really know much about it. I’ve filed Rule 22 forms numerous times over the years, but I wouldn’t have known the rule was being revised had Tisdale not given me the tip. And she likely wouldn’t have known about plans to change the rule had her own attorney not brought it up.

I asked the Administrative Office of the Courts for comment on the proposed changes and even they were unaware of it.

‘It’s our courthouse’

The proposed new rule contains a number of conditions where recording is not allowed that are not in the current rule. One that concerns Tisdale is a prohibition against recording when the judge is not seated.

A lot goes on in a courtroom while attorneys, witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants are waiting on the judge. With her camera rolling, Tisdale has caught unguarded discussion between attorneys in a high-profile divorce case joking about their fees and tender moments of witnesses and victims embracing.

Judges and lawyers are trained to ignore that stuff because, by and large, it’s not admissible. But for the rest of us, it is part of the system and Tisdale doesn’t want a new rule obstructing that.

“It’s our courthouse,” she said. ...


User avatar
Nydia Tisdale
Posts: 5945
Joined: August 23rd, 2010, 12:00 pm
Location: Roswell, GA

Long a bastion of transparency, Georgia courts act to dim the lights

Post by Nydia Tisdale » July 27th, 2017, 11:00 pm

Long a bastion of transparency, Ga. courts act to dim the lights
by Chris Joyner, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 27, 2017.

No one is going to accuse judges of enthusiastically embracing modern society.

They speak in Latin phrases and trace much of their behavior from the bench back centuries to English common law. Plus, who else wears robes to work?

Yet daily they are forced to deal with Twitter. And Facebook. And Periscope. And a tide of technology — from laptops to smart phones and tablets — that can wreck a trial, intimidate juries and place witnesses in peril. Or so they say.

To deal with this, the Council of Superior Court Judges of Georgia this week approved a change to a courtroom rule that allows for electronic recording of trials. The rule was approved at a big conference of Georgia judges held this week at the King and Prince Resort on St. Simons Island. (Pricey, but you know, it’s probably the only place they could get.)

The new rule ostensibly recognizes changes in technology that could jeopardize the fairness of judicial proceedings, but in reality it just makes the courts less open.

It’s an unfortunate rule that government transparency advocates have argued against — to no avail. And it rolls back what had been a fairly open system. ...

This rule isn’t a done deal. The Georgia Supreme Court has veto power over rule changes like this, said Jane Hansen, spokeswoman for the state’s high court.

“It can change the rule or send it back,” she said. That process doesn’t have a firm timeline. “It will be over when this court says, ‘Here’s the rule,’” Hansen said.

The Supreme Court has pretty simple rules for broadcasting or recording its proceedings. Media outlets can request permission to record there by filling out an online form. And while the court’s rules appear silent on cell phones, they generally appear to favor openness as long as it is not distracting.

Openness to citizens, journalists and citizen-journalists is an important part in maintaining what we find valuable about our courts. While the judges on this council may be working from the best of all possible intentions, the road they have paved doesn’t get us where we need to go.


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