Minnesota lags behind in allowing in cameras

All over the nation, states have been allowing cameras in courtrooms to record what is going on, something that totally in the spirit of the 6th Amendment guarantee of a public trial for those accused of crimes. Courts had previously banned cameras when they were big and bulky and needed flash powder and bright flash bulbs to take pictures, which would definitely be a distraction to the judicial proceedings. With today’s camera technology, however, taking pictures and recording video is hardly noticeable.

Minnesota has lagged behind other states, however. The court system has believed that the mere possibility of being recorded or photographed will adversely affect the courts, discouraging victims and witnesses from being forthcoming, or encouraging others to play to the cameras.

In the past year, the Minnesota Supreme Court approved a pilot program that would allow cameras in court in very select, restricted situations. The program has hardly had a chance to be evaluated before a bill in the Legislature would ban video and audio recording in court unless the defendant, victim, prosecutor, subpoenaed witnesses and judge agree to allow it. That’s a pretty high bar to clear.

There is also the question of whether the Legislature should even be intruding into the operations of the state’s courts. The Minnesota Supreme Court sets the rules for the judiciary, not the Legislature or the governor. Minnesota’s courts have barely cracked open the window of transparency in allowing cameras in courtrooms. The Legislature has no business telling the courts to slam it shut again.

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