Cameras May Be Heading To The Courtroom

The top judge at the Mississippi Supreme Court thinks it's time to look at whether to change the rules to permit cameras in courtrooms. Chief Justice Ed Pittman told a group of journalists at the Supreme Court on Tuesday that he'll shortly announce a plan on how to study the matter. ``We're going to speak to that shortly,'' Pittman said.

``There will be developments in the media coverage of trial courts in the almost immediate future.'' Pittman, who was instrumental in starting live Internet broadcasts of oral arguments at the Supreme Court in April, said that experiment has worked ``very well.'' The state Court of Appeals started doing the same thing in August. Other than the Internet cameras, all other types of cameras are forbidden in the supreme and appellate courts. State trial courts do not allow cameras at all. Pittman says he'll ask for input from other judges, the media, attorneys and other groups.

During a wide open, 1-1/2-hour discussion, Pittman also defended a plan to institute time limits for trial courts to handle cases. This proposal takes effect Jan. 1. Pittman also backed proposed changes in the Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct, its first major overhaul since the 1970s. One of the most controversial reforms would give anyone involved in a case the right to challenge the judge handling it and ask that a different judge hear it. ``I don't mean to insult any judge, but I do mean to empower the people who find themselves in court,'' Pittman said.

Supreme Court justices are seeking public comments on the proposed new code and could consider adopting it in January.