About the Brechner Center

"The Brechner Center is an invaluable, hands-on resource not only for working journalists -- but for future journalists, as well. For my journalism courses at the University of Miami, I copy large sections of Brechner's A Citizen's Guide to Government in the Sunshine for students, and heavily cite the Guide's contents while lecturing on the importance of Florida's Public Records Law."

Ronnie Greene,
Veteran investigative reporter & Urban Affairs Editor, The Miami Herald
Adjunct Professor of Journalism, University of Miami

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Open Courts

1. Are cameras allowed in Federal Courts?

2. Are cameras allowed in state courts, like Florida?

3. Do I have a right to attend court proceedings?

4. When can a judge issue a gag order?

1. Are cameras allowed in Federal Courts?
Although cameras are allowed in 50 states, they are still banned from most federal courts and U.S. Supreme Court proceedings. However, the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy-making body for the federal courts, passed a resolution that gave federal appellate judges the discretion to allow still photographs or radio or television coverage of appellate arguments.
•More information from the First Amendment Center

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2. Are cameras allowed in state courts, like Florida?
Generally, a Florida court may exclude cameras if the person requesting the exclusion is able to provide evidence to prove: (i) that the presence of the cameras has a qualitatively different effect on that person than on other people and (ii) that effect is qualitatively different from the effect of other types of media (like as print or radio). If it is a criminal defendant who is trying to exclude the cameras, that person must provide evidence demonstrating the cameras prevent him/her from getting a fair trial. More information on cameras in Florida's courtrooms is available from the Florida Bar's Reporter's Handbook.


3. Do I have a right to attend court proceedings?
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the public has a qualified right of access to criminal trials, jury selection and pretrial hearings. The Supreme Court has not yet formally extended this right to civil proceedings, but traditionally, the public is allowed to attend. Many lower courts have ruled that civil proceedings are presumptively open.
The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that civil and criminal proceedings in state courts generally should be open to the public. Judges, however, may close courtrooms or seal certain judicial records if the party seeking closure has met certain standards. For a list of those standards, see A Citizen’s Guide, page 20.

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4. When can a judge issue a gag order?
Judges may issue restrictive orders, often called “gag orders,” preventing parties and trial participants from talking about judicial proceedings. To issue a gag order, a judge must demonstrate that there is a substantial likelihood their statements would prejudice a criminal proceeding, that no viable alternative exists and that the order is no broader than necessary to protect the defendant’s rights.
•More information from the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press

 

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