First Amendment and the Freedom of Information Act

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Following the Lindbergh trial in 1937, the American Bar Association, appointed a committee to investigate the legality and constitutionality of cameras in courtrooms. Following an exhaustive analysis of the law, the committee recommended a total ban on cameras in courtrooms…

Introduction

The closing decade of the twentieth century was witness to the live broadcast of every detail of the O.J. Simpson murder trial, giving millions of viewers, not just in the United States, but across the world, access to the entirety of the courtroom proceedings (Cohn and Dow, 2002). As Hernandez (1996) reports, proponents of the practice maintain that the televising of courtroom proceedings does not just give the public access to the workings of their judicial system but allows them to oversee the government, as it is their right to do. Opponents, however, quite rightly maintain that the practice, however, conflicts with both the defendant's right to privacy and his/her expectations of a fair trial (Hernandez, 1996).
The argument in favor of cameras in courtrooms is predicated on the Constitution, the First Amendment and theoretical function of the media as watchdog. Both the Freedom of Information Act and the First Amendment clearly explicate the public's right to know, implying, as N. Hentoff (2000) argues, the constitutionality of live coverage of court trials. According to this perspective, the constitutionality of cameras in the courtrooms stems from the fact that the U.S. ...
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