Atlanta, Feb. 6, 2018 – The Supreme Court of Georgia has approved a revised rule for the Superior Courts of Georgia governing the use of electronic devices in courtrooms and the recording of judicial proceedings. The new version will take effect on May 1, 2018.
Rule 22 of the Uniform Superior Court Rules was issued in 1997 and has not been updated since then. The new version reflects the dramatic changes in technology and news media over the past two decades, and particularly the fact that most Georgians now have “smart phones” and other electronic devices that can be used as still cameras, video cameras, and audio recorders. The rule addresses the use of such devices for recording and non-recording purposes by lawyers and their employees, parties in court cases, jurors, witnesses, and media representatives and other spectators.
As the new rule underscores at the outset, “Open courtrooms are an indispensable element of an effective and respected judicial system.” The rule recognizes that a balance must be struck in the use of recording devices in courtrooms: “It is the policy of Georgia’s courts to promote access to and understanding of court proceedings not only by the participants in them but also by the general public and by news media who will report on the proceedings to the public. This must be done, however, while protecting the legal rights of the participants in the proceedings and ensuring appropriate security and decorum.”
The new rule expands the ability of lawyers and self-represented parties to record the proceedings in their cases and to use their electronic devices in courtrooms for non-recording purposes like email and internet access. The rule also expands the ability of the news media and other spectators to bring their electronic devices into courtrooms and, when they request to record a proceeding, clarifies the limited circumstances under which the court is permitted to restrict or prohibit such recording. Rule 22 applies in all Georgia superior courts. It does not affect the federal courts in Georgia, which prohibit all recording of proceedings and generally prohibit the possession of electronic devices in courtrooms by non-lawyers.
The process of revising Rule 22 has been led by the Council of Superior Court Judges. It has spanned several years and has involved input at all stages by multiple interested parties including media representatives, attorneys and bar associations, civil rights organizations, and others.
“This rule is the product of a multi-year process aimed at balancing the growing advances in technology and media coverage with protecting the legal rights and safety of those who rely on our courts,” said Cobb County Superior Court Judge J. Stephen Schuster, Chairman of the Uniform Rules Committee of the Council of Superior Court Judges. “The new Rule 22 expands access to our courts throughout Georgia and was a collaborative effort that reflects the valuable input of many people and groups. I am very grateful to all those who participated.”
To view the new Rule 22 in its entirety, including the form used to request recording of a judicial proceeding, please click here.