TV IN COURTROOM

Opinion No. 19 (1977)*


QUESTION: Does a trial judge violate Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 3A(7):
1.  By permitting newsmen to film, photograph, record or broadcast all or any of the trial proceedings from a vantage point inside the courtroom?
2.  By permitting newsmen to film or photograph all or any part of trial proceedings through the glass panels in the doors without actually entering the courtroom?
3.  Is the answer the same if the parties, attorneys, and witnesses agree to the filming, photographing, broadcasting or recording?

ANSWER: We answered each of the three questions in the affirmative for the reasons now to be stated. Each of the questions is prefaced with "permission" having been given by the judge for such conduct. The canon does not speak to "permission"; rather, it speaks clearly but negatively; the judge should prohibit all broadcasting except upon the occasions specified in the canon, none of which are material here. The most recent authoritative expression of opinion in this area of the law is that found in Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539, 49 L.Ed.2d 683, 96 S.Ct. 2791 (1976), and the opinion should be studied carefully before taking any action which might be considered as a prior restraint upon the freedom of the press.

On the other hand, the opinion in Bird v. State, 527 S.W.2d 891, 895-896 (Tex. Crim. App. 1975), is directly in point and should govern judges in Texas conducting criminal trials subject to review by that Court. This latter opinion is particularly helpful since it is the only judicial construction of the particular canon under consideration known to the Committee. The Committee on Judicial Ethics declines to answer questions propounded seeking advice as to steps to be taken against a person who may violate any rules regulating the conduct of spectators at a trial of a case. Such questions relate to the duties and responsibilities of members of the judiciary and do not come within the scope of the authority of this Committee.
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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.