Utah courts may allow TV cameras, other technology in courtroom

Courts • Proposed rule also would govern use of smartphones and tablets.
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Court officials are now taking public comment on a rule change that would allow television cameras in state courtrooms.

The Utah Judicial Council on Monday approved a draft of the rule. The council also approved a draft of a rule that would allow the use of smartphones and tablets in courtrooms at a judge's discretion.

Utah is one of 15 states that currently does not allow television news cameras to record trial court proceedings. If the new rule is approved, the state would join 19 others in allowing video and audio recording of criminal and civil cases at the trial level.

Currently in the trial courts, a single still photographer is allowed to photograph a hearing with a judge's approval. Restrictions can also be made regarding whether a photographer can take pictures of jurors, witnesses, exhibits or the judge. News organizations then share the photographs.

In the appellate courts, still photography and video are allowed with permission.

The proposed rule changes would follow a format nearly identical to what is now used for still photography.

The council expressed concerns earlier this year that allowing the use of phones and tablets would pose safety concerns and cause disruptions in the courtroom.

Under the proposed rule, a judge would have total control over whether to allow the use of phones or tablets in his or her courtroom, though the rule encourages the judge not to ban the use except in certain situations.

"In the end, the judge is the leader, the controller of courtroom," Tim Shea, senior attorney for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said.

Public comments will be accepted through the courts' website www.utcourts.gov.