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US family lawyer wants to film divorce cases

A Utah family lawyer has applied to have divorce cases in his state filmed and broadcast.

In his proposal, Eric Johnson said he would use his online video channel to inform the public about the way civil courts work.

Officials in the western state have expressed concern about Johnson’s motives, but he denies the move is for self-promotional purposes.

The family lawyer said:

“Our courts are public, and the public should know more about the courts … I’m not trying to be a National Enquirer-kind of guy, I just want the public to see how the courts work.”

The move comes at the same time as a rule change is being debated in Utah regarding media access to the courts.

Under the proposed plans, cameras will be allowed into some Utah courtrooms for the first time. Proponents say it will improve public trust in the court system by increasing transparency.

However, court officials want to amend the new rule so that media outlets have to give a reason why cameras should be allowed to a particular proceeding, rather than a judge having to give a reason to ban their use.

Johnson was not happy about the potential for restricted access, saying cameras in the courts be a force for good.

He insisted:

“Transparency should make for courts functioning better and people being better served by the system.”

Utah court officials say their proposal will have no major impact on ‘legitimate’ news outlets, but some media rights activists are not convinced.

David Reymann, a media lawyer, argues that the change goes against what the original rule change was designed for: increased transparency in the courts.

He added:

“There should be no distinction between camera coverage of open proceedings and a reporter, who’s able to sit there and live-tweet the whole thing out or report it second-hand. If anything, a video recording will be more accurate.”

Photo by faungg via Flickr

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Kara Abrams says:

    It’s about time!!!!! Eric Johnson you’re my hero. If you need a reporter I’m there! Kara Abrams on Twitter—Family Law

  2. H says:

    Noble sounding idea. I’ve always believed the 1000s of surveillance cameras in our neighbourhoods should all be turned back on the people in positions of authority, whom we need to be much more worried about.

    Critics will of course say that cases are already recorded, and this is true, but transcripts are only every brought out and used when it suits the agenda of authorities to do this. But Johnson proposes to turn that around, and that can only be a good thing.

  3. Eric Johnson says:

    Marilyn, thank you so much for mention of this struggle we’re having with getting the courts in Utah to allow electronic news media coverage of divorce and family law cases for the sake of helping the public better understand Utah law and its application.

    And Kara Abrams, thank you for your support. My main purpose in covering divorce and family law cases in public court proceedings is to help people better understand the workings of the courts and the application of the law. But it’s obvious that an important additional benefit of electronic news media coverage is maintaining transparency in court proceedings (and without costing the taxpayer a dime to boot).

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