The Iowa Freedom of Information Council has honored a federal judge in Des Moines for volunteering for a pilot project to allow cameras in federal courts. Judge Robert Pratt says the U.S. courts lag behind state courts in allowing such recordings.
“It is what I would call baby steps compared to what journalists in Iowa are accustomed to with regard to cameras in the courtroom,” Pratt said. “There are a number of restrictions that we have to follow.” Judge Pratt says parties in the federal lawsuits must agree to the use of the cameras and the rules are strict.
“We’re limited to civil proceedings. We can’t record criminal cases. We can’t show jurors at all and we can’t show the portion of the trial that is known as voir dire or jury examination,” Pratt said. U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, is another prominent Iowan who’s been advocating for allowing cameras in federal courts to make the judicial system more transparent.
Since July of last year, cameras have been allowed for certain selected proceedings in Judge Pratt’s courtroom and in other federal courts in Iowa’s southern district.