Electronic Media Access to Federal Courtrooms: A Judicial Response

This Note examines the ongoing electronic media access dispute and suggests methods to establish access. Because reform of current law would be implemented largely at the judicial “front lines”-the 700-plus U.S. district judges’ courtrooms —the concerns and desires of district judges are of primary importance to any proposed change. The survey documented an institutional resistance to an expanded media presence in federal courtrooms; this institutional inertia may be the strongest single reason that change has not occurred. Part I of this Note presents the federal rules, canons, and resolutions comprising the current prohibition against video and audio-equipment access, as well as case law illustrating an insistence upon maintaining set rules of procedure. Part II examines necessary influences for affecting procedural change. Part III analyzes the results of the survey regarding proposed procedural change. Finally, Part IV presents a strategy to accommodate the federal judiciary’s stance on electronic media access, as indicated by survey responses. Recommendations include proposals for partial access, the extent, and success of which will depend upon the support given by those implementing the change.