A federal judge has rejected efforts to let TV stations videotape and air Thursday's two hearings challenging Arizona's new immigration law.
In an order Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton said she really has no authority to grant the request by the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona to let cameras and tape recorders into the courtroom. She cited rules which specifically prohibit those devices in federal court, even when not in session.
Bolton acknowledged the arguments by Dan Barr who represents the coalition that the justices of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Arizona, have approved experiments allowing recording of "historically significant proceedings.'' She said, though, the federal court in Arizona hasn't adopted any rules to make that happen here.
Anyway, Bolton continued, that special rule requires cases to be broadcast to be selected by the chief judge of the federal court in Arizona after consulting with the chief judge of the 9th Circuit. And that, she said, leaves a regular district judge like her without the power to do anything about the request.
Bolton said, though, that the public is not being denied access to the proceedings.
"Other than the ability to record the arguments by audio or video, the press is welcome to attend and report on the hearing,'' the judge wrote. And she said both hearings will be transcribed "and a transcript can be ordered by any interested person.''
Barr said it is unfortunate that Bolton turned down the request.
"This would have been the perfect case to demonstrate the value of camera coverage to the federal courts,'' he said. "It would have attracted a lot of viewers online and on broadcast and cable TV.''
Television cameras and audio recorders already are allowed in hearings at the 9th Circuit, but only on a case-by-case basis with the final decision up to the judges hearing each request. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, does not allow either.
State courts in Arizona generally permit both, though there are provisions for judges to close a hearing to broadcasting if they believe it is necessary.