Current guidelines issued by the Judicial Conference of the United States permit appellate courts to photograph, record, broadcast, and televise court proceedings but expressly prohibit the same practice at the district court level, except in limited circumstances. S. 818 would amend current law to authorize both U.S. district and appellate courts to record and broadcast court proceedings, if such activities would not violate the due process rights of the parties involved. The authority provided to district court judges under S. 818 would expire three years after the date of enactment.
The bill also would authorize the Judicial Conference to promulgate guidelines for obscuring the identity of certain types of witnesses from a broadcast audience. Using information from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) and businesses that provide digital services to state and local courts, CBO estimates that implementing the bill would cost about $41 million over the 2022-2026 period; such spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.
Currently, of the 13 appellate courts, 1 broadcasts oral arguments and 3 others record proceedings but do not broadcast them. Except in limited circumstances, the Judicial Conference generally does not permit district courts to record or broadcast court proceedings. From 2011 to 2015, 14 district courts participated in a pilot program that permitted the recording of proceedings. Today, 3 district courts allow video recording of some civil trials and post those videos on the judiciary’s website, with permission from the Judicial Conference.