April 20, 2019

Maine media file new bid to allow cameras in trial courts

PORTLAND — Citing the “enormous popularity” of movies such as “Presumed Innocent” and TV shows like “L.A. Law,” the news media has launched a new effort to allow cameras and microphones in Maine’s trial courts.

Organizations representing broadcasters and print journalists asked the Maine Supreme Judicial Court this week to permit photographic and electronic coverage during an 18-month trial period that would be closely monitored.

“With the adoption of electronic media coverage of courtroom proceedings by the Vermont Supreme Court in 1989, Maine has the distinction of being the only New England state which does not allow coverage of its trial courts,” according to a brief filed by the Maine Association of Broadcasters and the Maine Press Association.

Studies have demonstrated that camera coverage in other states has enhanced public awareness, understanding and respect for the judicial system without intruding on witnesses, jurors, lawyers or judges, the brief said.

“Frequently, what little `knowledge’ people have of the judicial system they derive from television programs such as `L.A. Law’ and `The People’s Court.”‘

The media asked the court to re-examine the issue in light of the mounting volume of information about the impact of cameras and microphones in other jurisdictions, said Edward Benjamin, the Portland attorney who prepared the brief.

Cameras have been allowed in the state supreme court since 1982 but have never been permitted in the district and superior courts.

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