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Cameras in the Courtroom

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In Washington State, broadcasting, televising, recording and taking photographs in the courtroom are governed by General Rule (GR) 16
of the Washington Rules of Court.

Washington Rules of Court, General Rule (GR) 16:

Broadcasting, televising, recording and taking photographs in the courtroom is authorized during sessions of the court, including recesses between sessions, under the following conditions:

    1. Permission shall have first been expressly granted by the judge under such conditions as the judge may prescribe; and
    2. The media personnel will not distract participants or impair the dignity of the proceedings.

Illustrative Broadcast Guidelines (included with the Rule, but not adopted formally as a part of the Rule).

  1. Officers of the Court. The judge has the authority to direct whether broadcast equipment may be taken within the courtroom. The broadcast news person should advise the bailiff prior to the start of a court session that he or she desires to electronically record and/or broadcast live from within the courtroom. The bailiff may have prior instructions from the judge as to where the broadcast reporter and/or camera operator may position themselves. In the absence of any directions from the judge or bailiff, the position should be behind the front row of spectator seats by the lease used aisle way or other unobtrusive but viable location.
  2. Pooling. Unless the judge directs otherwise, no more than one TV camera should be taking pictures in the courtroom (as presently constructed) at any one time. Where coverage is by both radio and TV, the microphones used by TV should also serve for radio and radio should be permitted to feed from the TV sound system. Multiple radio feeds, if any, should be provided by a junction box. It should be the responsibility of each broadcast news representative present at the opening of each session of court to achieve an understanding with all other broadcast representatives as to who will function at any given time, or, in the alternative, how they will pool their photographic coverage. This understanding should be reached outside the courtroom and without imposing on the judge or court personnel. Broadcast coverage outside the courtroom should be handled with care and discretion, but need not be pooled.
  3. Broadcast Equipment. All running wires should be securely taped to the floor. All broadcast equipment should be handled as inconspicuously and quietly as reasonable possible. Sufficient film and/or tape capacities should be provided to obviate film and/or tape changes except during court recesses. No camera should give any indication of whether it is or is not operating, such as a red light on some studio cameras. No additional lights should be used without the specific approval of the presiding judge and then only as he may specifically approve as may be needed in the case of appellate hearings.
  4. Decorum. Broadcast representatives’ dress should not set them apart unduly from other trial spectators. Camera operators should not move tripod-mounted cameras except during court recesses. All broadcast equipment should be in place and ready to function no less than 15 minutes before the beginning of each session.

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