Journalist's Guide

Cameras in Maryland Courtrooms

By law, the public may not record or broadcast a criminal matter in a trial courtroom.

In civil cases and at the appellate level, Maryland court rules require requests for permission to use cameras and microphones be made to the Clerk of the Court in writing, at least five days before the proceeding is scheduled to begin. A court may honor a request that gives fewer than five days notice if “good cause” exists; this good cause should be identified in your request. You must specifically identify the case you wish to cover. The court is under no obligation to grant your request and consent of all parties to the case is normally needed. However, consent of a party is implied if the party is the federal, state or local government, any of their agencies or an individual sued or suing in an official governmental capacity. Consent of a party is also not needed in the appeals courts. Once consent has been given, it may not be withdrawn although any party, at any time, may ask the judge to limit or terminate coverage.

Coverage is not permitted if the proceeding is closed to the public by law or by the judge. Audio coverage is prohibited of private conferences, bench conferences and conferences at counsel tables.

Even when allowed, recording or broadcasting must be limited or terminated during the testimony of a crime victim at the request of the victim. Coverage may also be prohibited, terminated or limited at the request of a party, witness, judge or juror where the judge finds a “reasonable probability” of unfairness, danger to a person, undue embarrassment or hindrance of proper law enforcement. A request to prohibit, limit or terminate coverage is presumed valid in cases involving domestic violence, custody of or visitation with a child, minors, police informants, undercover agents, relocated witnesses, trade secrets and so forth. A presiding judge is given broad discretion. State law also calls for pooling arrangements when permission is given for video, still photos and microphones. It is not the responsibility of the court to coordinate pool arrangements. Media wanting to cover such trials must work out among themselves the logistics of this coverage. Where proceedings are continued other than for normal or routine recesses, weekends, or holidays, it is the media’s responsibility to make a brand new request for additional coverage. Generally, cameras and broadcast equipment are permitted in the courthouse for judicial investitures or other ceremonial proceedings, with the advance permission of the court. Many Maryland courtrooms no longer use court reporters, but digitally record all of the proceedings and then use the recording as the official court record. This practice has implications for the media’s access to that record. While the Rules provide that a party to the case or their attorney may obtain a copy of the proceedings, it is forbidden for that party or attorney to make a copy for others (including reporters) without court permission. Others, such as media


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