Judith Miller, Students, File Petition for Video Access to Virtual Court Hearings

‘Cannot Be Secret Proceedings’: Petition Wants Video Access to Virtual Court Hearings

A new petition in Virginia federal court is seeking to gain video access to virtual proceedings, the latest effort to obtain access while courthouses remain under pandemic restrictions.

The petition, filed in the Eastern District of Virginia this week on behalf of reporter Aaron Cantú, asks that a general order issued last year by the court’s chief judge be changed “to allow non-parties such as himself reasonable visual access to criminal proceedings” run by video in the court. The legal challenge cites a First Amendment right of access to the proceedings.

“There is no doubt that the pandemic provides a compelling reason for remote courtrooms. It does not, however, provide a reason to exclude the public from watching what happens in those remote courtrooms, a practice that therefore violates the First Amendment,” the filing reads.

One of the petition’s drafters, Judith Miller of the University of Chicago Law School’s Federal Criminal Justice Clinic, said in an interview that while this filing was made in the context of the pandemic, it’s important to ensure that video access is granted in the future, particularly as some say they would like to see those virtual hearings remain an option once courthouses are fully open and functional.

Read more at Law.com

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