Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


In Westmoreland v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a per se ban on television access to a federal courtroom does not violate the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The author asserts that Westmoreland and two similar courts of appeal decisions upholding absolute prohibition of electronic access to judicial proceedings are indefensible under recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions such as Chandler v. Florida and the Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia line of cases. The author details the widespread success of television access to courtrooms in over eighty percent of the states. Data from state experimentation with cameras in the courtroom have largely refuted the perceived dangers of electronic access cited by the federal courts in upholding per se rules of exclusion. Finally, the author proposes a two-year pilot study for the federal and state courts which now prohibit electronic access.