Mecklenburg County Courthouse – The “no click rule” in courtrooms

The Mecklenburg County Courthouse costs the taxpayers $150 million per year. Because of this you would think you are allowed to take photographs inside. But interior shots of the courthouse are strictly forbidden, without an advance okay from court officials. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Richard Boner defends the “no click rule” of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse as a result of jurors, witnesses and others involved in the sometimes emotional or potentially life and death cases.

Nowadays it is challenging to tell visitors that while smartphones are allowed in the court room, the use of the smartphone camera is not allowed. The courthouse has up to 5.000 visitors a day and up two-thirds of those visitors bring smartphones with them. That makes it is very difficult to handle the “no click rule”.

Until 1990, judges and lawyers fought successfully to keep cameras out of trials. In the early 90’s, the State Supreme Court decided that TV cameras and still photography should be allowed in most court settings. Government policies on the issue are very different. The Mecklenburg courthouse is in the middle with the decision that cameras are allowed in the most court settings. The Federal Courthouse bans phones and all electronic devices, except those used by lawyers, judges and other court officials. On the other side the Charlotte- Mecklenburg Government Center is a photographers paradise by comparison.

There is a similar discussion in Germany since 2001 concerning the repeal of the “no click rule” in courtrooms. Since 1964, it is strictly forbidden to take interior shots in the courtrooms. The news channel n-tv sued at the Bundesverfassungsgericht with the main argument that law suits are of public interest. The Bundesverfassungsgericht denied the motion. At this point, 13 years later, the opinion concerning cameras in courtrooms has changed. One reason is that by now everything in life is public. Another argument to repeal the “no click rule” is the usage of Twitter and other social media that helps spread the court room news to the public, no matter the validity of the news. With the permit to allow cameras in the court room, everybody has the chance to what is happening in the court live. Support to cancel the “no click rule” comes from the President of the Bundesverfassungsgericht Andreas Voßkuhle, especially in cases of vast public interest, like the extension of airports or Stuttgart 21.
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und viele Grüße aus Charlotte
Reinhard von Hennigs