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Federal Court Overturns State of Maryland’s Blanket Ban on Recording State Court Proceedings

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The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled Friday that the state of Maryland’s blanket ban on recording court proceedings is unconstitutional.

The case was filed against the administrative circuit court judges of Baltimore County and Prince George’s County, which then replaced the state of Maryland.

“The State of Maryland remains free to prohibit live streaming from the courtroom and to regulate the broadcast of protected recordings and video recordings under Maryland rules. However, the state cannot sanction the press for disseminating ‘truthful lawfully obtained information’ that the state itself has released to the public,” reads the notice of the district court memorandum.

An accompanying order specifies what actions the press or others are permitted to take with recordings of criminal proceedings held in open court. Actions permitted after the blanket ban is lifted include:

  • publish these recordings online.
  • include such recordings in all films.
  • broadcast these recordings at public events.
  • share these recordings on social networks.
  • including these recordings on podcasts.

The compelling state interest in having a broadcast ban was to protect witnesses in criminal proceedings. The district court did not find this argument persuasive.

“While the interests of the state are compelling, the broadcast ban is not narrowly tailored to achieve them. It does very little to protect witnesses from intimidation, harassment and violence, as it does not prevent the widespread publication of their names, images and the textual content of their testimony,” the memorandum states.

Transparency advocates welcomed the overturning of the blanket ban on broadcasting court proceedings.

“This ruling is a victory for community members seeking to shed light on what is happening in state criminal courts. Maryland’s blanket ban on publishing recorded court proceedings was a clear violation of the First Amendment,” Seth Wayne, senior attorney at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, told Baltimore CBS affiliate WJZ-TV.



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