TELEVISING OF VOIR EXAMINATION

Opinion No. 75 (1984)*


FACTS: The television program "20/20" wants to film the voir dire examination of a jury panel in a criminal case. The film will be used in a "20/20 " program to educate and inform the public on the voir dire procedure. The defendant has consented to the filming, which will be done in an unobtrusive manner that does not detract from the dignity of the proceedings. The film will not be exhibited until after the trial is over.

QUESTION: Does a judge violate the Code of Judicial Conduct by permitting the described filming?

ANSWER: The Committee is of the opinion that the trial judge would violate Canon 3A(7) by permitting the described activity. That Canon prohibits filming or recording in a courtroom and areas adjacent thereto during sessions of court or recesses between sessions. Although various exceptions are permitted, the described activity does not fit within the exceptions because there is no assurance that the display of the film will be delayed until all direct appeals have been exhausted (Canon 3A(7)(c)(iii)). Also, the use of the film in a commercial television program that is displayed to the general public does not satisfy the requirement that "the reproduction will be exhibited only for instructional purposes in educational institutions" (Canon 3A(7)(c)(iv)). (Unanimously adopted by the Committee on Judicial Ethics the 6th day of August, 1984.)

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*Provisions governing recording court proceedings were removed from the Code of Judicial Conduct effective September 1, 1990. See Rule 18c, T.R.C.P.