Video cameras to be allowed in courtrooms

SALT LAKE CITY – A state panel decided on Monday that television cameras are now allowed in Utah’s courtrooms.

The 14-member Utah Judicial Council began investigating the possibility of video cameras and personal electronic devices in the courtroom just over a year ago. The council voted 9-3 in support of the measure, meaning cameras will be allowed inside starting April 1.

“This rule change is going to substantially open the courts and our hope is that by giving the public the access to the courts, this way they will better understand how courts operate,” said Nancy Volmer, spokesperson for Utah State Courts.

The allowance does have some caveats. Jurors will be off-limits for recording. The judge will have final say if any other people, witnesses or victims in the case can be videotaped or photographed. The judge can also deny camera access altogether under certain circumstances.

The Utah news media is a major supporter of the new rule because it will allow them and the public better access to the judicial process, but it’s drawing mixed reactions from the legal community.

“I┬áthink it’s a giant mistake,” said attorney Gil Athay. “When judges know they’re on camera, when lawyers know they are on camera, they perform in a total different fashion.”

The vote also allows for the public to use portable electronic devices like cell phones and tablets in the courtroom as long as they’re silent.