April 29, 2010

We need cameras in the courtroom, because of the "long, slow decline of the newspaper industry" and the rise of "pseudo-journalist."

Says Judge Kozinski.

44 comments:

bagoh20 said...

What is the argument against cameras in the court room?

Ann Althouse said...

@bagoh20 Incompetent judges might be embarrassed.

Lem said...

The argument (more or less) is that the cameras would influence the behavior of people before the court.

They would also influence a Judge..

Who could forget Judge Ito?

Scott M said...

We need real constructionist judges, not pseudo-judges. Bloggers are the modern version of pamphleteers. I fail to see how more speech is somehow bad.

In the past, the main avenues of information dissemination were huge, oligarchic newspapers, radio, and tv. The one thing they all had in common was that the message was always one-way. When radio opened up the talk radio formats, the discussion became far more inclusive. Now, with the rise of the net and the fact that X'ers and Millennials get their news online, threatens that one-way discussion.

From where I'm sitting, the more inclusive and two-way the discussion is, the more center-right the tone. Maybe that's just me, though.

bagoh20 said...

I understand the argument that it will affect behavior and populism might creep in, but is that really worse than what can be done more out of sight? Are people generally more ethical in public or small groups. Are penis pumps more likely with or without cameras? NTAIWWT.

What's that buzzing sound, Judge Judy?

New "Hussein" Ham said...

I see the good judge Kozinski has torn himself away from his home collection of gay child porn long enough to say something obvious.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Supposedly, the law isn't about doing what is popular."

Judges run for election in many states.

This idea that judges aren't already involved in popularity contests, or that they're immune to the political considerations in their judgments is ridiculous.

They don't want cameras in the courtroom for one reason: they don't want average Americans to see how criminals are coddled by the liberals who comprise most of the American judiciary.

Judges are above being judged.

Joe said...

One issue with cameras in the courtroom is that the judge may adjust his demeanor to reflect the popular view of what judges are, rather than simply being a judge. Aside the from the various judge shows where this is the point, Judge Ito clearly did this during the OJ trial.

One compromise would be to have the camera's present, but have the video record be sealed until the verdict is announced.

I'd rather the police be required to video record ALL of their official activity, especially interrogations.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

One issue with cameras in the courtroom is that the judge may adjust the sentence of the criminal before him to reflect the fact that people are actually watching what he is doing and judging his job performance.

Video of judges coddling rapists and killers make good campaign commercials - especially in those states where judges are elected and not anointed.

And let's not forget the race issue.

If you put cameras in the courtroom, people will suddenly be able to discern something they can no longer tell by reading a newspaper - the racial makeup of the defendant pool.

Newspapers deliberately began years ago to remove this information from their crime reports ... even when police were issuing appeals to find fleeing criminals such as kidnappers or bank robbers.

"Our suspect is a 6-4 Caucasian wearing an orange coat." You'd never see such a description in a newspaper in this day and age. They would omit the vital information about race because it is politically incorrect to report some facts.

bagoh20 said...

I want cameras in the DMV office. That would lead to reform and savings, not to mention capturing criminals who still need license plates.

t-man said...

I am really against cameras in the courtroom. In real life, judges actions and decisions can and must appear heartless. On camera, nothing can be heartless. That is not going to change, so the judging will. The metophorical blindfold will be off.

If you want a system that always sides with the sympathetic party, no matter the merits of the underlying dispute, televised court proceedings are for you.

Joe said...

To be clear, in the end, our society is far better having things in the open. Whatever problems cameras cause, it would expose idiot judges and ADAs, like a pair in a city close to mine who strut around the courtroom, trampling over everyone's rights.

I saw this with my own eyes--the traffic and criminal court are the same in that city and I watched a morning of traffic and misdemeanor cases and was appalled. I watched witnesses and police officers lie on the stand--in one case I knew exactly where the incident took place and there was absolutely no way the story the prosecutor told was true. (And based on the mutterings and looks, most the observers in the courtroom knew it was a crock of shit.)

The worse part, whether my teenage daughter was really guilty or not of the infraction charged to her, she left the court with absolutely no respect for the courts and our justice system.

(And the other idiocy; my daughter was found guilty of reckless driving and her fine was dropped from $160 to $80. Yup, we had to go to court two days, for several hours each time. The court used its time, the ADAs time, the time of a police officer and inconvenienced the other driver just so my daughter could be fined $80. And after traffic school, the points on her license were cut in half. What a gargantuan waste of money.)

Thorley Winston said...

What is the argument against cameras in the court room?

When people know that there is a video camera on, it is likely to affect their behavior in ways that you may not want in a courtroom setting. Judges and attorneys are human beings (no, really) and I would rather not introduce that sort of temptation into the courtroom.

Moreover, someone who is interested in knowing what was said and happened during a trial can obtain a transcript of the proceedings (unless they’re sealed in which case they shouldn’t be broadcast anyway) or in many cases, they can go down there in person and watch.

bagoh20 said...

It's not the cameras which are already present. It's the public viewing that is the issue.

bagoh20 said...

The argument against cameras seems to boil down to: The public is too stupid to judge what they see correctly.

Lem said...

This idea that judges aren't already involved in popularity contests, or that they're immune to the political considerations in their judgments is ridiculous.

I'm not saying they aren't influenced.. I'm saying the cameras would add to those.

Lem said...

The public is too stupid to judge what they see correctly.

It works for the MSM.

Lem said...

If you put cameras in the courtroom, people will suddenly be able to discern something they can no longer tell by reading a newspaper - the racial makeup of the defendant pool.

Thanks for making my point.

edutcher said...

Film and tape can always be edited, which, I suspect, is what the good judge is really after. He gives the show away on that score when he invokes, and I quote from the article, "informed journalists like Nina Totenberg or Linda Greenhouse"; of course, two of the most biased, Left-wing dishrags around.

Those terrible bloggers and bloggresses, such as Althouse and Insta, coming from all sides, can give a more complete - and informed - picture than the average reporter from Black Rock or the Gray Lady. We can't have that!

No problem with cameras in court. The issue is who controls them and the recording media they use. Put that in the hands of a neutral party and a lot of judges, including Kozinski sooner rather than later, would be squirming.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"If you want a system that always sides with the sympathetic party, no matter the merits of the underlying dispute, televised court proceedings are for you."

If you want a system where unaccountable unelected judges give black people longer sentences, but let white defendants off lightly, then banning cameras from court proceedings is for you.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Put that in the hands of a neutral party and a lot of judges, including Kozinski sooner rather than later, would be squirming."

I don't know. Judge Kozinski wasn't squirming when all that child porn was found on his computer that he was sharing out to the internet.

He's clearly untouchable and can do whatever he wants in our society.

Our judiciary doesn't even have the appearance of propriety as long as Alex Kozinski is allowed to be an appellate court judge.

David said...

The good judge should stay away from any pronouncement involving the word "camera."

That said, it's a good idea. If we need cameras at every interrogation of criminals, or terrorists, to prevent abuse, why not courtrooms?

One caveat: Must televise from beginning to end, all rise to adjourned, plus the clerks getting ready and the lawyers milling around, and every motion, every lame joke, every fawning comment.

And specialize. "The Motion for Continuance Channel." ZZZzzzzzzz . . . .

TMink said...

I think the "pseudo journalists" would LOVE having cameras in court rooms. Look at what they have done with you tube. The hope for the nation lies partly in the so called "pseudo journalists."

Trey

Amartel said...

"The argument against cameras seems to boil down to: The public is too stupid to judge what they see correctly."

No. The argument boils down to: the judge, attorneys, parties, and jury members will assume what the public wants to see and act accordingly. These assumptions will often be incorrect. (See, e.g., TV reality shows.)

Trooper York said...

Well it worked out great with OJ.

Trooper York said...

The courtroom can’t be taped because of all the corrupt deals and sleazy behavior of the judges and the lawyers will be on the record.

In New York today, a Supreme Court judge is being investigated for extorting a $500,000 loan from a lawyer to pay off a gambling debt.

Stuff like that happens all the time.

The only thing worse than a journalist is a lawyer.

reader_iam said...

I have mixed feelings about cameras in the courtroom, for reasons already articulated here.

I am sympathetic to Kozinki's observation with regard to the newspaper industry as regards to how its decline has affected court reporting. Putting aside the specific examples of Greenhouse and Totenberg, I don't think very many newspapers, most specifically local ones, have a full-time court reporter, much less full-time court reporters. Court reporting is a particularly challenging beat, requiring some specialized skills and knowledge (which some reporters, even very good ones, flat-out don't have and in many cases can't develop). Sustained exposure and experience really are desirable.

I am absolutely not trying to imply that average citizens are stupid etc. etc. However, good court reporting is hard work; in my opinion, it's not for beginners. And I do not just pull that opinion out of my ass. Having worked at a local paper which, at that time, had full-time court reporters on staff, I have seen the difference first hand. (And to this day, I can tell in roughly, oh, two seconds whether or not an article related to court proceedings or a court case was written by someone experienced in court reporting and with a depth of knowledge; editing lots of newspaper articles written by reporters, including experienced court reporters, tends to develop that skill).

In addition, I covered a variety of beats when reporting and writing newspaper articles myself. I did a lot of challenging work, both "going in cold" and with experience (and I was good at it). I can tell you that one of the most challenging assignments I ever had was to cover the courthouse full-time for a week while one of the regular court reporters was following a local case at the appellate level. It was damn hard, demanding work to do it well, and I was no slacker. (I also, at that time, had already moved into editing--my regular job at the time was assistant city editor).

I came away from that experience with immense respect for the work of good court reporters (and, equally, less tolerance for bad work).

Trooper York said...

And in all that time with the great reporting, nobody knew this mook had a huge gambling jones that was the talk of the Bronx.

Every low level Luchesse numbers runner knew it but somehow everybody else missed it.

Or they turned a blind eye to it because they were just as dirty.

The only thing worse than a journalist is a lawyer.

Trooper York said...

Unless of course it is a Red Sox fan.

Amartel said...

"The courtroom can’t be taped because of all the corrupt deals and sleazy behavior of the judges and the lawyers will be on the record."

Yah, sure, the judges bribe the lawyers right there in open court, on the record. Happens all the time. If only there were cameras to bring this dastardly behavior to light. : ) Look, there are bad judges out there, and bad lawyers, no question. Are cameras in the courtroom going to expose their shenanigans? No. Would honest reporting and good lawyering on the other side expose them more effectively? Yes. Also, judicial elections should be a lot more competitive. No more just lining up various party hacks on opposing sides and issuing a mission statement that you stand for "justice." Barf. Make 'em debate each other, on tv. Maybe then more voters will pay attention.

Trooper York said...

"Yah, sure, the judges bribe the lawyer’s right there in open court, on the record. Happens all the time."

That's exactly right buddy boy. The appointment of conservatorships to loot the estates of incompetent and elderly people happens all the time. The sleazy ass lawyers rip them off while the poor people live in squalor. But nobody cares and the lazy ass journalists will never report it.

Unless of course your wife uses the dough you robbed to run for Vice President.

Then it might come to light.

Trooper York said...

If any so called "journalist" with half a brain and a pair of balls investigated any of the conservatorships or other crooked deals that happen every day in open court, he could win one of those bullshit journalism awards that they give each other.

But they don't do it. Not so much because they are corrupt. Just lazy and stupid.

The only thing worse than a journalist is a lawyer.

Amartel said...

"That's exactly right buddy boy. The appointment of conservatorships to loot the estates of incompetent and elderly people happens all the time. The sleazy ass lawyers rip them off while the poor people live in squalor. But nobody cares and the lazy ass journalists will never report it."

Okay, so how does a camera in the courtroom stop the appointment of sleazy conservators? I don't doubt it happens, I'm just asking how a camera in the courtroom stops it from happening or even decrease the incidence by potentially bringing the practice to light. How does it bring the practice to light. Are viewers at home tuned in to Conservator Court TV? No. So that leaves "journalists" (who we know you don't like) to go through the court video and pick out . . . what, a video of a judge appointing a conservator? There's must see TV. The looting of the estates part does not show up on camera. The sleaze and corruption will not be filmed. That has to be rooted out by investigation.

Trooper York said...

Well buddy, what it shows in black and white is the actual collusion so if the heirs or relatives need to find out why granny or their aunt or uncle died indigent, they have something tangible to work with. It can serve as a deterant to the very least much the way camera's do to shoplifters in a store. Most criminals do think twice if they know they are being filmed. Since most lawyers are at heart criminals perhaps that will give them pause.

But I do agree with you that lawyers will find a way around the camera's to do their crooked deals.
You don't have an argument from me about that.

Amartel said...

So if lawyers will find a way around the cameras to do their crooked deals, where's the deterrent effect? Your shoplifting analogy does not apply if it is conceded that the fraud and sleaze and criminal behavior can and will occur off-camera. Collusion in appointment of a sleazy conservator or corruption in rulings generally is best shown by the court's own orders. The cameras would create no deterrent effect whatsoever.

Here's what cameras will create: show trials, intimidation of witnesses with unpopular or uncomfortable opinions, windy self-serving commentary (see, Senate Hearings, any), and general playing to the cheap seats.

Like this debate, btw. Thanks for hanging in.

Trooper York said...

Sunlight disinfects. Lawyers are a lot like vampires. They suck the blood of the innocent. They do their destruction under the cover of darkness. If we expose them to sunlight many of them will wither and shrivel.

There is a reason why most lawyers can't look themselves in a mirror.

Trooper York said...

The camera doesn't lie. Windy self serving speech doesn't play well in the harsh light of day.

It is true that you might get more popular verdicts. Child molestors will not be freed on a technicality. Murderers won't get a free pass because Turn Them Loose Bruce used to date their mother. The criminals will not go free because the constable erred.

Why won't that happen? Well it might happen now and then but the judges and the juries and the lawyers will have to weigh public opinion.

That's a feature not a bug.

Amartel said...

If it is conceded that the camera doesn't catch the corruption how is "sunlight disinfects" even an argument? And since when should a jury be considering "public opinion" as opposed to the law as applied to the evidence? (As you noted earlier, that sure worked out oh so well for OJ. Too bad for dead Nicole and Ron, though.) The camera doesn't lie but people do, and they'll lie their asses off even more if they know they're on camera. And then there are those other unintended consequences I mentioned earlier. Everyone gets outraged at some point by lawyers and/or judges (nice vampire analogy) but we should think hard about how we address systemic abuses so we don't create new ones. I still think finding a way to make judicial races more competitive, and accountability through good reportage and lawyering, is the best way.

Trooper York said...

The point is that OJ verdict would have been different if the jury wasn't sequestered and hidden from the sense of the entire community not just one segment of it. At worst it would have been a mistrial.

Sunlight is a disinfective in the sense that many of the things that slip by won't slip by if the "pseudo-journalists" were examining the day to day activity of the courts that was posted on-line. The so called real journalist are lazy and courrpt. You have a much better chance of a normal every day citizen being outraged and bringing the news of the activities of the Undead who populate our legal system. But it all out there for everyone to see. What are you afraid of?

I know what it is.

Trooper York said...

Juries should consider public opinion. That's what jury nulification is all about.

Trooper York said...

Lawyers are a lot like cockroaches.

If we turn on the kitchen light of public scrutiny on them, they will flee in panic across the kitchen floor and we can squash them properly.

Amartel said...

"Juries should consider public opinion. That's what jury nulification is all about."

And that (jury nullification) is exactly what happened in the OJ case. Along with a lot of grandstanding by everyone in the courtroom. That circus went on for a lot longer than it needed to because of that camera. The various witnesses, attorneys, and that poor silly judge became temporary celebrities, enhancing their reputations first and doing their jobs second, to the great detriment of justice in the case and in general. And we, the public, did not learn one signicant thing from the footage that we could not have learned from reading the newspaper.
I don't get the distinction between "journalists" and "pseudojournalists." I'm not sure its one that online reporters/bloggers have an interest in perpetuating. A reporter can report on paper or online; the true distinction is in the quality of the reporting.

Sounds like you got a raw deal in our fine justice system. Join the club. (Or don't, I don't care.) But think about whether your proposed cure will be worse than the disease.

Trooper York said...

Oh that's not my proposed solution.

I would do a lot of different things to the justice system that are not part of this discussion.

I just think we should see the evil that lawyers do every day up close and personal.

It can have it's own channel on cable. I mean they have whole channels entirely devoted to reality shows about midgets.

They can film it in Weaselvision.

Trooper York said...

"Pseudo-journalist" wasn't my formulation; I was just mocking this asshole judge.

Wait that's redundant. Sorry.