The trial of Justin Ross Harris, convicted last year in the hot car death of his toddler son, was heavily covered by print and broadcast media, the result of a judicial rule that leans toward allowing cameras in courtrooms. That rule is undergoing revision by a council of superior court judges. FILE PHOTO

AJC Watchdog: Court watchers wary of new rule on cameras

A proposed revision of the rules governing cameras in Georgia’s courtrooms has some government transparency advocates nervous .

But one of the judges tasked with making the changes says the effort is to crack down on abusive broadcasting using smart phones, rather than closing the courts to the media.

“The mainstream media has never been the issue,” said Cobb County Superior Court Judge Stephen Schuster. “It’s the guy wandering through trying to record the attorney talking to the client, the guy shooting a picture of a witness in a criminal case, the neighbor shooting the lady confessing to adultery.”

The current rule governing the use of recording equipment during trials, known as “Rule 22,” is broad and favors judges allowing cameras in their courtrooms. Some fear the proposed changes would impose new limits.

Nydia Tisdale, a citizen journalist who regularly records public meetings and trials for her website, said she is concerned about limitations spelled out in the proposed rule will mean she will get less of the trial than before . One part of the rule requires recording equipment to be turned off when the judge is not on the bench.

“I believe it’s a public space that should be open to the public and open to recording,” she said. “It’s our courthouse.”

The rules are being revised by The Council of Superior Court Judges, which could approve the changes by this summer. The Supreme Court gives final judicial approve to the rules.

Read more about the rule change and how it could affect your right to know about Georgia’s courts in this week’s AJC Watchdog column here.

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