New Rules Proposed on News Media Reporting in TN Courtrooms

Press Release from the Administrative Office of the Courts for the State of Tennessee, March 13, 2015:

SUPREME COURT SEEKS COMMENTS ON PROPOSED CHANGES TO RULE REGARDING MEDIA COVERAGE IN COURTROOMS

The Tennessee Supreme Court, recognizing that technological advances have changed the way journalists provide coverage of courtrooms, is seeking comments from the public regarding proposed changes to Supreme Court Rule 30.

The rule, which the Court adopted in 1995, provides instructions to the media regarding permission to have certain equipment in the courtroom, such as cameras and recording devices. The proposed revisions would add electronic devices, such as cellphones, tablets, and laptops to the tools permitted by journalists.

“Transparency of court proceedings is an important part of maintaining an open government,” said Chief Justice Sharon Lee. “These proposed changes embrace the tools used by the media to keep the public informed about what’s happening in our court system.”

Chief Justice Lee added that reporters are already routinely using electronic devices to transmit descriptions of court proceedings through social media, websites, and other methods.

With a few exceptions for certain cases, journalists are allowed to observe and take handwritten written notes of all court proceedings. The rule requires media outlets to obtain permission prior to any camera or other digital coverage of courtroom proceedings. The judge in a case must hold a hearing if there is any opposition to coverage employing additional equipment, or if the judge feels the additional coverage would have an adverse effect on the proceedings.

Read the Court’s order, the rule, and the proposed changes. The deadline for comments is May 12.