Proposed Rules Unreasonably Limit Press Freedom, Public’s Ability to Record in Vermont Open Courts

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition recently expressed concern over proposed rules that would limit press freedoms in Vermont and prohibit the public from recording what occurs in the state’s open courtrooms.

The Vermont Judiciary is considering rules that would prohibit anyone not defined as “media” from video recording or taking photos of legal proceedings. The rules also require journalists to register with the court and allow court officials to confiscate recording equipment for “good cause.”

In a Sept. 18 letter written to the judicial committee drafting the rules, NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman wrote that “the public has a right to audio and video record what occurs during open court proceedings. Citizens – media and non-media alike – should be allowed to record so long as that recording isn’t disruptive or outweighed by substantial interests.”

Recording should be allowed without burdensome registration requirements and without the threat of equipment confiscation by the court, he added.

The rules are intended to address the prevalence of smartphones and personal recording devices, technology that NEFAC believes should be embraced by the court.

“Technology now provides a way for everyone to virtually have a seat in the gallery and witness what would otherwise only be seen by those physically present,” Silverman wrote. “Smartphones and similar recording devices are essentially their eyes and ears. This rule acts as a blindfold and earplugs.”

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, Lois Howe McClure, The Boston Globe and Boston University. Celebration Supporters include The Hartford Courant and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.