Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Judges eye changes to open court rule as critics cry foul

Family law matters have always been held with special regard in United States courtrooms. This has resulted in family law cases involving minors being sealed from the public and even closed door hearings in many cases. Part of the aim has been to protect the privacy and dignity of individuals who may be working through one of the most difficult times of their lives. In today's current world of reality judge shows and televised high-publicity trials, more courts are starting to reevaluate and soften their prohibition on cameras and other recording devices in court. However, for some, the type of change that the judges have implemented is just the beginning.

Utah judges are considering a rule change after one attorney's multiple attempts to have family law cases recorded and televised. The attempts come less than a year after Utah opened its courtrooms to not only media coverage, but also to the use of smart phones, tablets and laptops. Critics of the proposed rule worry that it not only does away with the original committee's goals, but may just be one of many future amendments to the open door policy. The issue will be brought to a vote in August, although the deadline for comments on the new rule is set for June 24th.

The change in the rule is slight in wording, but can be very significant in practice. As the law is written now, judges have to justify why cameras shouldn't be allowed in court for a specific proceeding. The change will make it so that those seeking to record a case will have to justify why they should be allowed in the court room. In practice, this change could allow judges to deny the taping of court proceedings without putting forth a valid reason.

Part of having faith in a system is knowing that it works the way it was designed. Keeping cameras out of family courtrooms may protect a family's privacy, but also can lessen people's faith in the courts and judges.

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune, "Lawyer wanting to film divorce cases prompts Utah courts to yell 'cut'" Marissa Lang, June 14, 2014

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