Recently Georgia judges have been attempting to change the courtroom access rules to prevent video and audio recording. As with the elimination of an independent judicial review committee, these proposals are a step in the wrong direction.
The stated reason for the proposed change is to protect litigants, protect judges, protect private attorney conversations, and safeguard the recording of the images of jurors. However, there is a high cost for these “protections.”
Judges need to face the same scrutiny faced by everyone else in modern society. Being a judge is a difficult job. However, if cameras are good for police officers, good in common places, good in the courtroom corridors, good at intersections, then surely, they are good in the courtroom.
It was just two years ago that someone recorded the Bowdon Georgia City Court Judge send poor people to jail because people on probation who could not pay their fines. He was unconstitutionally incarcerating people.
The judge's actions were brought to light when a citizen recorded the proceedings. Had there been no recording, nothing would have changed. We need to encourage more sunshine, not less. The citizens of Georgia are better off for knowing what was happening in the City of Bowdon.
What about Chief Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams? She violated the rights of people in her drug court program for years. She kept people from their lawyers and ruled her judicial circuit with an iron fist. The local bar was afraid of her, and as a result, no one filed a complaint.
It took the public radio program This American Life to expose her and drive her from office. I am disappointed she was not criminally prosecuted, as charges against her were eventually dismissed.
We need to live stream all courtrooms. As long as judges protect people's rights, treat attorneys and litigants with respect, treat even the worst criminal defendant with dignity, then our judges should have nothing to fear.
In situations that involve young victims or invoke other security risks, common sense rulings can turn off the cameras. Otherwise, the public has a right to see the third branch of government in action.
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