- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2008

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — A measure to repeal a ban on cameras in court at criminal sentencings got a hearing before lawmakers yesterday, with supporters saying it strengthens the public’s right to know about court proceedings and opponents arguing that the bill would harm the legal process.

The measure, sponsored by Delegate Michael Smigiel, Cecil Republican, would allow a judge to limit camera use given certain circumstances. It would require news organizations to request camera use 24 hours before the proceeding.

Now, television cameras are not allowed in criminal court proceedings in Maryland. Cameras are allowed in some civil court proceedings.

At least 37 states allow cameras during criminal cases to some extent.

Michelle Butt, news director for WBAL-TV, said bills have been submitted for years in Maryland to open up criminal cases for cameras to better disseminate news to the public, only to be rejected. She described this measure as a compromise proposal, limited to sentencing once the case has been adjudicated.

Miss Butt also pointed out during a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee that cameras can be used in the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

“I’m not quite sure how a privilege can be granted in our highest court and not one of our lower courts, but apparently it can in Maryland,” she said.

Baltimore District Judge Nathan Braverman, who opposes the measure, said allowing cameras in the courtroom would distort judicial proceedings, because television coverage would show only small fragments of what happened.

“The people don’t want this,” he said. “The commercial press does.”

Mr. Smigiel argued that criminal proceedings already are open to the public. Allowing cameras inside, he said, would make it easier for people to follow court proceedings only when they can’t attend in person.

But Judge Braverman said wide broadcast of the proceedings would be a setback to victims’ rights and frighten witnesses, at the expense of a medium that focuses more often on entertainment and drama than conveying facts.


A year after Maryland lawmakers agreed to ban clam dredging in the Atlantic coastal bays along the state’s eastern coast, one senator wants the state to reimburse clammers hurt by the prohibition.

The bill proposed yesterday by Sen. Richard F. Colburn, Dorchester Republican, would give clammers a fair-market value for dredge boats that they cannot use because of the ban. Mr. Colburn said he isn’t sure how much his bill would cost but noted that fewer than 10 clammers made a living dredging in the shallow bays between Ocean City and the mainland.

Mr. Colburn said that the boats are expensive and that the ban puts some clammers deeply in debt.


Maryland could join other states in banning bands from pretending to be famous originals under a bill proposed in the state Senate.

The bill is aimed at preventing bands from saying they are ensembles from the 1950s and 1960s when they have little connection to the original band.

More than 20 states have passed similar bills. Jon “Bowzer” Bowman, formerly of the band Sha Na Na, has been pushing the law in states across the country. Sponsors say unscrupulous promoters and agents have been putting together impostor acts that use the names of artists.

The bill was proposed yesterday by Sen. Michael G. Lennett, Montgomery Democrat.

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