May 24, 2010
By Julia Rosen
Shocking nobody, Charles Cooper from Protect Marriage and the Prop 8 side wants the courtroom during closed arguments closed to cameras. He penned letter to Judge Walker in response to the one last week from the Media Coalition. Advocate:
In a letter to U.S. district judge Vaughn R. Walker, attorney Charles J. Cooper wrote that allowing cameras in the courtroom would violate an earlier stay order by the U.S. Supreme Court, which in January blocked broadcast of trial proceedings as part of a pilot project previously approved by a judicial council of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Karen Ocamb has the full letter up at LGBT POV (and Scribd is below, thanks Kathleen!).
This is the interesting bit, beyond the arguements over due process and other lawyerly talk.
Fourth, there is little merit to the Media Coalition’s argument that “the concerns earlier reviewed by the Supreme Court should not preclude” the public broadcast of closing arguments because they “will solely consist of the arguments of counsel—and not witness testimony or evidence.” As an initial matter, the parties may play excerpts from the video-recorded depositions during the course of closing arguments. In any case, in Hollingsworth, the Supreme Court specifically cited the findings and policies of the Judicial Conference of the United States, noting that while those policies “may not be binding on the lower courts, they are at the very least entitled to respectful consideration.” 130 S. Ct. at 712 (quotation marks omitted). While it is true that the deleterious effect of public broadcast on witnesses is one of the concerns undergirding the Judicial Conference’s policy, it is by no means the only concern. As we have explained previously, the Judicial Conference’s policy also rests on findings that public broadcast has negative effects on some judges and attorneys, including distraction, grandstanding, and avoidance of unpopular decisions or positions. Moreover, the Judicial Conference has repeatedly stressed that “the presence of cameras in a trial courtroom … increases security and safety issues” and that “[t]hreats against judges, lawyers, and other participants could increase even beyond the current disturbing level.”
There’s a lot there, so let’s unpack it.
First, Cooper is contending that since there exists a chance that video taped depositions will be aired that the whole proceedings should not be televised. That’s an easy fix. Turn off the video feed and just use the sound, or turn the cameras completely off.
The rest of it is Cooper arguing that, because the Supreme Court doesn’t like cameras to begin with, and cited some “Judicial Conference” in their original decision, Walker should listen to what the Conference says and not allow cameras in. If that is the case, then the whole pilot project for video taping other trials ought to be junked out the window. But there has never been an explicit ruling from the Supreme Court saying that cameras should never be allowed in a court room.
Note that Cooper is managing to work in a “protect us, we are victims” line right there at the end. It just does not hold water when it comes to the closing arguments. These are well rehearsed lawyers who are very used to the public eye, as is Judge Walker.
Now we wait for Walker to issue his ruling on the request from the Media Coalition.