Thursday April 18, 2013

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Journalists in Vermont can now bring cellphones and computers into federal buildings, including federal courts, based on a new rule that started this week.

The rule allows them to carry the devices past security checkpoints into court rooms but only allows them to be used in common areas outside of court. Video and still cameras are still prohibited.

The Burlington Free Press had asked the federal courts in Vermont to allow the use of the newsgathering devices in court for breaking news reports.

Smartphones, recorders, and notebook and tablet computers are allowed in state courtrooms in Vermont and in some federal courts in other states.

Chief Court Clerk Jeffrey S. Eaton and federal judges in Vermont did a two-month study and then issued a proposed rule in February, seeking public comment, the Free Press reported.

"We took the media’s request for greater access to electronic devices in the courthouses seriously," Chief U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss said. "At the same time, we have strict rules governing cameras and broadcasting from federal courtrooms. Our goal was to strike an appropriate balance between public access to our courtrooms through the media and adhering to the federal rules and Judicial Conference policy that we must follow," she said.

The revised rule, which started this week, covers U.S. District Court in Burlington, Rutland and Brattleboro as well as the federal magistrate’s court in Burlington and federal Bankruptcy Court in Rutland.