For immediate release:October 8, 2003
For further information: contact: Winnie Comfort, Tammy Kendig
Supreme Court Approves Revised Guidelines for Cameras in the Courts
The New Jersey Supreme Court today released revised guidelines for still cameras, video cameras and sound recording equipment in New Jersey's courtrooms. The Court began allowing cameras in the courts in a pilot program in two courtrooms, one in Atlantic County and one in Bergen County, in 1979. The pilot expanded to all 21 counties in 1980 and became a permanent program in New Jersey's Supreme Court and Superior Court, including the Appellate Division, in 1981. A pilot program began in Municipal Courts in Bergen, Mercer and Camden Counties in 1982 and became a statewide, permanent program in Municipal Courts in 1986.
The guidelines, which are effective immediately, were revised as part of an effort to update policies regarding cameras in the courts. The first edition of the Guidelines for Cameras in the Courts was issued in 1981. The current guidelines were last revised in 1991.
Overall, the established guidelines have proven effective in providing media access to court proceedings, while ensuring fairness and orderly proceedings in the courts. Basic principles of the guidelines have remained the same: Media outlets must seek permission in advance to bring cameras into courtrooms and, once admitted, must adhere to established procedures. The revised guidelines:
- Make reference to Canon 3A(9) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which was adopted in 1994 by the Supreme Court and presumes open access for bona fide media to photograph, record or broadcast court proceedings.
- Are reformatted and include a table of contents for easy reference.
- Define "bona fide" media to which these guidelines apply.
- More clearly define the purpose of a pre-trial conference with the media.
- More clearly define those proceedings that are not open to cameras, including child abuse and neglect proceedings and termination of parental rights proceedings.
- Allow cameras in the courts during divorce proceedings.
- Eliminate the list of specific equipment permitted in the courtroom.