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Overview of Cameras in Courts Pilot

Fourteen federal trial courts are taking part in the federal Judiciary's digital video pilot to evaluate the effect of cameras in courtrooms. 

This pilot program started July 18, 2011. All 14 courts volunteered to participate in the experiment. Although the data collection portion of the pilot will conclude July 18, 2015, participating courts may continue to record proceedings and post them on uscourts.gov until the Judicial Conference considers recommendations regarding the pilot, which may occur at its March 2016 session.

No proceedings may be recorded without the approval of the presiding judge, and parties must consent to the recording of each proceeding in a case. The recordings will be made publicly available on uscourts.gov and may also be on local participating court websites at the court's discretion.

The participating courts were selected by the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM) of the Judicial Conference of the United States in consultation with the Federal Judicial Center, the Judiciary's research arm.

Rule 53. Courtroom Photographing and Broadcasting Prohibited

Except as otherwise provided by a statute or these rules, the court must not permit the taking of photographs in the courtroom during judicial proceedings or the broadcasting of judicial proceedings from the courtroom.

(As amended Apr. 29, 2002, eff. Dec. 1, 2002)

Only the federal district courts participating in the pilot study are permitted to record and provide videos of court proceedings to the public. Districts volunteering for the pilot must follow guidelines adopted by CACM. The pilot is limited to civil proceedings in which the parties have consented to recording. Photographing in the courtroom, as well as broadcasting of judicial proceedings, is prohibited in criminal cases by Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Proceedings in federal bankruptcy courts are not included in the pilot.

A presiding judge can choose to stop a recording if it is necessary, for example, to protect the rights of the parties and witnesses, preserve the dignity of the court, or choose not to post the video for public view. Coverage of the prospective jury during voir dire is prohibited, as is coverage of jurors or alternate jurors.

Participating Courts:

  • Middle District of Alabama
  • Northern District of California
  • Southern District of Florida
  • District of Guam 
  • Northern District of Illinois 
  • Southern District of Iowa 
  • District of Kansas 
  • District of Massachusetts 
  • Eastern District of Missouri 
  • District of Nebraska 
  • Northern District of Ohio 
  • Southern District of Ohio 
  • Western District of Tennessee 
  • Western District of Washington