596 F.Supp. 1166 (S.D.N.Y. 1984), 82 Civ.7913, Westmoreland v. CBS Inc.

Docket Nº:82 Civ.7913
Citation:596 F.Supp. 1166
Party Name:Westmoreland v. CBS Inc.
Case Date:September 19, 1984
Court:United States District Courts, 2nd Circuit, Southern District of New York

Page 1166

596 F.Supp. 1166 (S.D.N.Y. 1984)

General William C. WESTMORELAND, Plaintiff,


CBS INC., et al., Defendants.

No. 82 Civ 7913 (PNL).

United States District Court, S.D. New York.

Sept. 19, 1984

Page 1167

Stuart F. Pierson, William E. Kennard, Andrew D. Koblenz, Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard & McPherson, Chartered, Washington, D.C., Robert G. Morvillo, Obermaier, Morvillo & Abramowitz, P.C., New York City, for petitioner Cable News Network, Inc., A Subsidiary of Turner Broadcasting, Inc.


LEVAL, District Judge.

Cable News Network (CNN) petitions for permission to record and distribute live comprehensive televised coverage of this trial. The petition recognizes that the introduction of cameras and recording equipment into a federal court proceeding is contrary to Canon 3 A(7) of the Code of Judicial Conduct for the United States Courts and local General Rule 7 of this Court. The petition requests an experimental exception for this case for the purposes (1) of demonstrating to the federal courts that such use of cameras will not impair or diminish the integrity and effectiveness of a judicial proceeding and (2) of distributing (on a pooled basis) comprehensive coverage of a trial that raises profoundly important questions concerning this country's conduct of the war in Vietnam and the privileges, ethical responsibilities and liabilities of the press. All parties to the case support the application.

My training in the long accepted tradition that banished the camera from the federal courtroom produced an instinctive negative reaction. I have been taught to assume that cameras would turn trials into vaudeville. A more careful reading of the petition, however, reveals a powerful argument.

There was a time when the blanket exclusion of the camera from the courtroom was understandable and appropriate. Equipment was cumbersome and noisy. Film could not function indoors without either the popping of flash bulbs or glaring stage lights. Television was a novelty, geared toward low-brow entertainment, It was easy, and no doubt justified, to conclude that the intrusion of the camera would disrupt and pervert the orderly conduct of the serious business of courts. Today, much has changed. Cameras are small, noiseless and equipped with distance lenses. Modern technology has made film that is sensitive to ordinary indoor light, and sound recording is similarly advanced. It appears that filming can be done without the slightest obstruction of dignified, orderly court procedure.

Although in 1965 the Supreme Court concluded that television coverage of a criminal proceeding was incompatible with due process, Estes v. Texas, 381 U.S. 532, 85 S.Ct. 1628, 14 L.Ed.2d 543, Justice Harlan opined that "the day may come when television will have become so commonplace an affair in the daily life of the average person as to dissipate all...

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