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News Organization Lauds State’s Approval of Cameras in Courts

WASHINGTON: The Radio Television Digital News Association today said it’s “encouraged by the South Dakota Supreme Court’s decision to allow cameras and electronic courtroom devices in trial-level courtrooms.”

The group said Chief Justice David Gilbertson told reporters that TV and still cameras, and audio recording equipment, would be allowed in a courtroom if the presiding judge and all the parties involved agree. The new rule goes into effect July 1, 2011. Should objections arise, a judge may decide to allow audio recording.

“We are very encouraged by this decision,” said RTDNA Chairman Mark Kraham. “It’s certainly a step in the right direction in giving the citizens of South Dakota and the United States a chance to take a closer look at the U.S. legal system.”

South Dakota’s legislature in 2009 repealed a law prohibiting cameras in criminal cases. That left the South Dakota Supreme Court the option of considering a modification of its rule prohibiting cameras in the state’s circuit and magistrate courts. RTNDA said a majority of the committee reviewing the rules recommended a system similar to one used in Minnesota, where devices are allowed when all parties agree.

“The Court has chosen a middle path on this issue to insure that persons who come into our courts continue to receive a fair trial,” Chief Justice David Gilbertson said. “We will closely follow how these new proceedings work. This will also allow the judges, attorneys and other court personnel to become familiar and comfortable with this new environment. In the future, if this current system works without difficulties and the Court deems it appropriate, the Supreme Court has the option of looking at expansion of the system. On the other hand, if significant problems arise the Court can also correct those.”

AP reported that juvenile hearings and some other proceedings will remain closed by law, RTNDA said. The organization did not have information on the rules governing cameras in courts in the remaining states.

-- Television Broadcast