High Court Okays Cameras in Court

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The decision allowing cameras in Mississippi courtrooms for the first time will be effective July 1. It has been under consideration for several years.

In 2001 when the court allowed coverage of its own proceedings on the Internet, Justice Jim Smith told NewsCenter 11 he knew some people are worried about courts becoming entertainment, with judges and lawyers performing for the media.

"I think just the opposite will happen," said Justice Smith. "I think we'll all behave better."

Last year during a visit to Meridian Justice James E. Graves, chairman of the courts and media committee, made his position clear.

"And I think the more we can demystify what the system does and what lawyers do and how judges do their job, the more confidence we can instill in the public in our system of justice," said Justice Graves.

The decision was met with approval by Bill Ready Jr., former president of the Lauderdale County Bar Association.

"I think it's a good thing that's coming," said Ready. "I've always thought it was better for the public to have a good understanding of what's going on in our court system and our courtroom. Of course, I think the cameras in the court need to be tempered with judgment on the part of the news media. And of course the trial judge needs to have some final sayso and authority."

Veteran circuit court judge, Robert Bailey, declined to be interviewed on camera but said the decision had both pluses and minuses. He pointed out some people are nervous in a courtroom and seeing a camera might well make them more so. But he said judges will have to learn how to work with the new system.