2020 Georgia Code
Title 15 - Courts
Chapter 1 - General Provisions
§ 15-1-10.1. Standards in Determining Grant of Requests for Televising, Videotaping, or Motion Picture Filming of Judicial Proceedings

Universal Citation: GA Code § 15-1-10.1 (2020)
  1. It is declared to be the purpose and intent of the General Assembly that certain standards be considered by the courts in determining whether to grant requests for the televising, videotaping, or motion picture filming of judicial proceedings. Such standards are intended to provide an evaluation of the impact on the public interest and the rights of the parties in open judicial proceedings, the impact upon the integrity and dignity of the court, and whether the proposed activity would contribute to the enhancement of or detract from the ends of justice.
  2. In considering a request for the televising, videotaping, or motion picture filming of judicial proceedings, the court shall consider the following factors in determining whether to grant such request:
    1. The nature of the particular proceeding at issue;
    2. The consent or objection of the parties or witnesses whose testimony will be presented in the proceedings;
    3. Whether the proposed coverage will promote increased public access to the courts and openness of judicial proceedings;
    4. The impact upon the integrity and dignity of the court;
    5. The impact upon the administration of the court;
    6. The impact upon due process and the truth finding function of the judicial proceeding;
    7. Whether the proposed coverage would contribute to the enhancement of or detract from the ends of justice;
    8. Any special circumstances of the parties, victims, witnesses, or other participants such as the need to protect children or factors involving the safety of participants in the judicial proceeding; and
    9. Any other factors which the court may determine to be important under the circumstances of the case.
  3. The court may hear from the parties, witnesses, or other interested persons and from the person or entity requesting coverage during the court's consideration of the factors set forth in this Code section.
  4. This Code section shall not apply to the use of electronic or photographic means for the presentation of evidence or the perpetuation of a record.
  5. The court in its discretion may grant requests made under this Code section for all or portions of judicial proceedings.

(Code 1981, §15-1-10.1, enacted by Ga. L. 1996, p. 734, § 2.)

Cross references.

- Freedom of speech and press, U.S. Const., amend. 1 and Ga. Const. 1983, Art. I, Sec. I, Para V.

Use of electronic devices in courtrooms and recording of judicial proceedings, Unif. S. Ct. Rule 22.

Editor's notes.

- Ga. L. 1996, p. 734, § 2, not codified by the General Assembly, provides that the amendment to this Code section is applicable to all judicial proceedings held on or after July 1, 1996.

Law reviews.

- For article, "The Case Against Closure: Open Courtrooms After Presley v. Georgia," see 16 (No. 2) Ga. St. B. J. 10 (2010).

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

Discretion of court.

- Decision whether electronic media will be allowed in the courtroom is not governed by the principle that there must be "clear and convincing proof" that closure is necessary to prevent a "clear and present danger" to the right of a fair trial, rather, the decision is a question for the trial court's discretion. WALB-TV, Inc. v. Gibson, 269 Ga. 564, 501 S.E.2d 821 (1998).

In ruling on a request for electronic and photographic coverage of judicial proceedings, a trial court should bear in mind Georgia's policy favoring open judicial proceedings, and, although the decision whether to allow electronic and photographic coverage of a trial is within the discretion of the trial court, if a trial court denies such coverage, there must be a factual basis in the record that supports the denial. Morris Communs., LLC v. Griffin, 279 Ga. 735, 620 S.E.2d 800 (2005).

Although O.C.G.A. § 15-1-10.1(b)(2) permits a trial court to consider the objection of the parties or witnesses whose testimony will be presented in the proceedings, when considering a request for electronic media coverage of a trial, a party's objection must set forth an adequate ground for denying the request and the record must contain some factual basis supporting that ground. Morris Communs., LLC v. Griffin, 279 Ga. 735, 620 S.E.2d 800 (2005).

Despite finding that the presence of cameras in the courtroom during a pending criminal trial would be harmful to the rights of the defendant, the state, and the potential jurors, given the small and limited space in the courtroom, because the superior court failed to provide a factual basis for denying a newspaper's request to record those proceedings, the court abused the court's discretion, warranting reversal of the denial. Savannah Morning News v. Jeffcoat, 280 Ga. App. 634, 634 S.E.2d 830 (2006).

Trial court erred in excluding a camera and denying a purported student's request to make video recordings of the criminal calendar proceedings because the trial court erred in the court's application of O.C.G.A. § 15-1-10.1 and did not properly consider the factors set forth therein. McLaurin v. Ott, 327 Ga. App. 488, 759 S.E.2d 567 (2014).

Consent of parties or witnesses.

- Consent of the parties is not a prerequisite to the trial court's decision with regard to the televising of proceedings; O.C.G.A. § 15-1-10.1(b)(2) provides that the consent or objection of the parties or witnesses is but one factor for the trial court to consider in making the court's discretionary determination. Smith v. Gwinnett County, 270 Ga. 424, 510 S.E.2d 525, cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1003, 119 S. Ct. 2338, 144 L. Ed. 2d 236 (1999).

Findings sufficient to support denial of coverage.

- Because the murder trials of two defendants were to be conducted separately, denial of coverage of the first trial was justified based on findings that due process rights would be jeopardized because testimony at the first trial would be similar to that introduced at the later trial and could create a tainted jury pool for the second trial. WALB-TV, Inc. v. Gibson, 269 Ga. 564, 501 S.E.2d 821 (1998).

O.C.G.A. § 15-1-10.1 does not specifically list jurors' desire for privacy as a factor to be considered in ruling on a request for photographic and electronic coverage of a trial, but it does authorize a trial court to consider any special circumstances of the participants in the proceedings, including concerns regarding the safety of the participants, and to consider any other factors which the court may determine to be important under the circumstances of the case. Morris Communs., LLC v. Griffin, 279 Ga. 735, 620 S.E.2d 800 (2005).

Findings insufficient to support denial of coverage.

- Since the murder trials of two defendants were to be conducted separately, denial of coverage of the second trial was not justified based on due process concerns and the distraction posed by the camera's presence. WALB-TV, Inc. v. Gibson, 269 Ga. 564, 501 S.E.2d 821 (1998).

When a newspaper moved for still camera coverage of a murder trial, it was error, under Ga. Unif. Super. Ct. R. 22 and O.C.G.A. § 15-1-10.1, to deny the motion because no facts supported the trial court's findings that the motion should be denied because: (1) defendant objected, and to insure due process and a fair trial; (2) jurors wanted to protect their privacy; (3) a camera would not increase the openness of the proceedings; and (4) a camera would impact on the court's administration and detract from the ends of justice, given the courtroom's small size. Morris Communs., LLC v. Griffin, 279 Ga. 735, 620 S.E.2d 800 (2005).

Cameras allowed in courtroom.

- Although the defendant's allegations that the defendant was harassed and abused by officers at the jail where the defendant was held were troubling if true, the defendant failed to demonstrate how such actions, which (even if true) occurred outside the courtroom, impacted upon the due process and the truth-finding function of the judicial proceedings; thus, the trial court did not abuse the court's discretion in allowing cameras in the courtroom. Roberts v. State, 344 Ga. App. 324, 810 S.E.2d 169 (2018).

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