Summary of Supreme Court 12 Rules for Covering the Courts

In 1997, the Wisconsin Supreme Court established rules and guidelines for judges and the media, concerning courtroom coverage.  Here’s a brief look at the rules:

SCR 61.01 says the judge makes the rules in the courtroom, period.  It also says any judicial officer who conducts a public proceeding has the same power as a judge.

SCR 61.02 establishes the media coordinators for the state, and says you should give three days notice to the trial judge (through the media coordinator) if you want to bring cameras or mikes into the courtroom.  But in actual practice, judges will often waive the 3-day notice.  Check with your media coordinator FIRST.

SCR 61.30 puts limits on the number of cameras and mikes allowed in the courtroom.  What the judge says, goes…and if the media coordinator can’t get the media to agree, the judge has the right to say “no” to everybody.

SCR 61.04 says you can’t make any distracting noises or sounds with your equipment in the courtroom, and that the judge has the right to approve any equipment brought into the courtroom.

SCR 61.05 gives the judge the right to tell the media where they can and can’t put equipment, and that equipment operators have to be where the judge says they have to be.  Once the proceeding starts, you can’t move your equipment and you can’t move around the courtroom.

SCR 61.06 is about courtroom lighting.  You can’t modify anything without the judge’s approval, and that other authorities like deputies and security personnel can tell you where you can and can’t put lighting equipment.

SCR 61.07 forbids you from recording or broadcasting or photographing anything said between an attorney and client or co-counsel, between opposing attorneys, or between the attorneys and the trial judge.

SCR 61.08 says you cannot operate your recording equipment during a recess in the proceeding.

SCR 61.09 says the court transcript made by the court reporter is the official record of the proceeding…not what you recorded.

SCR 61.10 says the chief judge of the administrative district will resolve any dispute in application of these rules.

SCR 61.11 says the judge can, for cause, prohibit you from recording (audio or video) of a participant in the proceeding, and that individual jurors should not be photographed, unless they consent.  Many cases involve crime victims, undercover agents, police informants, juveniles, relocated witnesses, trade secrets, and so on, and the judge can prohibit recording.

SCR 61.12 prohibits any use of film, video, photography, or audio recordings or reproductions of any court proceeding cannot be used for unrelated or advertising or promotional purposes.