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Mike Bryant
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Stearns County will See Cameras in the Courtroom (Update)

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The deadline is here and the St Cloud Times has served notice that they will be taking advantage of the new court rules that allow for cameras in the courtroom under certain conditions. They have a plan of showing how informative and unobstructed the process can be, so that they can ask the Supreme Court to expand their ruling.

“I think it’s a tepid step in the right direction. I think the court is wading carefully into an issue they deem to be sensitive for people who attend court proceedings on all sides,” said Art Hughes, a longtime radio journalist who is a board member for the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists and Minnesota Coalition of Open Government. He has worked to increase access of cameras to Minnesota courts.

The ruling does not allow cameras in criminal trials, family court, and commitment proceedings.

The biggest concern in the ordinary criminal case is that witnesses could be effected by the cameras. That some people will not come forward. Also the personal nature of the family law and commitment cases have them on the prohibited side.

(Update) I was contacted by someone from court information office who pointed out an error:

Cameras are allowed in some criminal cases in district courts — with the approval of the judge and the parties. This rule has been in effect since 1989, although is has rarely been used because one of the parties usually objects. The recent change only affects some civil cases.

I appreciate the update and as I told them: I don’t think many people are aware of that rule.

Since we try a lot of cases each year, it will be interesting to see if one of our cases is followed. It sounds like the participants will have a chance to object, which will mean it is up to the client and the insurance company. It seems like a great chance to let the public see what a real trial looks like.

Will it make local celebrities out of judges, lawyers, and trial participants? I hope not. It seems that the kind of coverage that goes to the person moves the trial away from what the case it really about. I guess a client or two might tune in to see what we look like in court, so it may have some affect there.

Will I watch? Maybe. I usually don’t make much time to watch the national trials that are getting attention, so I doubt it would be much different with a local trial. There may be a circumstances where one of the lawyers is someone I know and I may just watch because it’s not unusual for me to take the time and watch when I have free time around the court. I learn a lot just from sitting in the gallery.

In most cases, I’m a fan of openness. This is an opportunity to let the public know what is going on in the courthouse. It is a chance to get people talking about issues that we have covered in the past.

Going to Trial : Picking the Civil Jury, Mike Bryant | March 07, 2011 9:06 AM

In Minnesota, We Aren’t Allowed To Tell The Jury About Insurance, Mike Bryant | August 20, 2010 9:10 AM

Making The Choice To Go To Trial, Mike Bryant | August 17, 2008 8:47 AM

I will be very interested on how people react and would be happy to talk to anyone who participates or watches the process as it develops. Hopefully, the results will reflect justice and an opportunity for more people to understand the process.