Main | Friday, December 18, 2009

Prop 8 Trial May Be Televised

The Ninth Circuit Court has authorized televised trials in some cases, leading to the expectation that the Olson/Boies attempt to repeal Proposition 8 will be be viewed nationwide. Guess who doesn't like that?
The Judicial Council of the 9th Circuit authorized television cameras in certain district court proceedings Thursday, reviving a national controversy just weeks before a groundbreaking trial over same-sex marriage is slated to begin in San Francisco. The 9th Circuit currently allows cameras to televise appellate arguments, as does the 2nd Circuit. A private vendor has also recorded a handful of district court proceedings in New York. But under the 9th Circuit's new experimental program -- in which only civil, nonjury trials would qualify -- district courts would be likely to use their own camera equipment, said Circuit Executive Cathy Catterson. The method of distribution would be figured out on a case-by-case basis. "It might be posted later in the day, it could be edited, or it could be live. It would depend on the nature of the case," Catterson said.

Cases to be considered for the pilot program, and the distribution details, will be decided by each district's chief judge, in consultation with 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. In San Francisco it is the Northern District of California's chief judge, Vaughn Walker, who is presiding over the federal challenge to Prop 8. Walker first raised the possibility of a televised broadcast several weeks ago, and lawyers representing pro-same-sex-marriage plaintiffs support the idea. The defendants oppose it, saying anti-gay-marriage witnesses could be subject to harassment and retribution. When the topic arose again this week, Walker alluded to possible 9th Circuit action and asked for another discussion with the parties should authorization occur.
Critics of the idea point to the OJ Simpson trial as an example of how the presence of TV cameras can tend to create grandstanding and non-legal histrionics on the part of lawyers. "If it does not fit, you must acquit."

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