ORDER PROMULGATING AMENDMENTS TO THE GENERAL RULES OF PRACTICE FOR THE DISTRICT COURTS
S. Gildea Chief Justice.
order, we approved amendments to Rule 4 of the General Rules
of Practice, establishing a pilot project that permits,
without the consent of the parties, limited audio and video
coverage of certain criminal proceedings in the district
court. Promulgation of Amendments to the Minn. Gen. R.
Prac., No. ADM09-8009, Order at 1-2 (Minn, filed Aug.
12, 2015). Specifically, the pilot project permits coverage
in criminal proceedings after a guilty plea has been tendered
or a guilty verdict returned, without party consent
See Minn. R. Gen. Prac. 4.02(d). We directed the
Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure to
monitor the pilot project and make recommendations regarding
further rule amendments, and recommendations regarding
continuation, abandonment, or modification of the pilot, or
permanent codification of the rules governing the pilot
December 20, 2017, the Advisory Committee filed its report
and recommendations, proposing to permanently codify, with
some revisions, the rules that govern the pilot project.
Report & Proposed Amendments to the Minn. Rules,
Nos. ADM 10-8049, ADM 09-8009 (filed Dec. 20, 2017). The
committee's report included an evaluation of the pilot
project based on survey responses gathered from over 50
proceedings in which coverage requests were granted. On
January 24, 2018, we opened a public-comment period and
scheduled a public hearing for April 25, 2018. Written
comments were submitted on behalf of nine organizations and
by one individual. The Chair of the Advisory Committee, the
Honorable Michelle Larkin, and representatives of six
organizations spoke at the April 25 hearing.
carefully considered the committee's recommendations and
evaluation of the permitted coverage in certain criminal
cases, the oral and written comments, and the overall
implementation and operation of the pilot project. After
careful review, we have concluded that the rules that govern
the pilot project should be permanently codified.
on all of the files, records, and proceedings herein, IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED that the attached amendments to the General
Rules of Practice for the District Courts be, and the same
are, prescribed and promulgated to be effective as of
September 1, 2018. The rules as promulgated will be effective
in all cases pending on, or filed on or after, the effective
THISSEN, J., not having been a member at the time of
submission, took no part in the consideration or decision of
2015, we adopted the recommendation of the Advisory Committee
for the Rules of Criminal Procedure to establish a pilot
project, through rule amendments, to evaluate the permitted
use of audio or video coverage in certain criminal
proceedings. Specifically, we authorized a pilot project in
certain "cases and proceedings" with
"additional safeguards and conditions" to govern
the permitted coverage. Promulgation of Amendments to the
Minn. Gen. Rules of Prac, No. ADM 09-8009, Order at 2
(Minn, filed Aug. 12, 2015) ("2015 Pilot Order").
Coverage was permitted only at a certain stage in the
proceedings: "after a guilty plea has been accepted or a
guilty verdict has been returned." Minn. Gen. R. Prac.
4.02(d). Coverage was prohibited in several instances: in
treatment courts; in cases involving charges of criminal
sexual conduct, or family or domestic violence; of testifying
victims; and outside of the presence of the presiding judge.
See Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 4.02(d)(i)-(vi).
pilot project has been in place since November 10, 2015.
During that time, the criminal rules committee, with
assistance from State Court Administration, monitored the
requests to cover proceedings, requested input regarding the
impact of coverage that occurred in certain proceedings, and
reviewed information-comments and other responses-from
courtroom participants and attendees, including parties,
attorneys, judges, victims, media representatives, court
staff, and other courtroom participants. The committee
evaluated data drawn from the requests by media
representatives to cover proceedings in 79 different cases.
The committee also reviewed clips of media coverage from
almost 50 cases. Coverage was permitted in 53 cases. Based on
the data reviewed and evaluated, a majority of the committee
concluded that the overall impact of permitted coverage on
the proceedings ranged from neutral to positive. There was,
in other words, minimal disruption of the proceedings and no
instances of coverage outside the conditions established for
the pilot project. See 2015 Pilot Order, Mem. at 18
(noting that among the goals of the pilot project was to
evaluate whether the conditions imposed led to "balanced
coverage while protecting the interests of all participants,
including the defendant.").
agree with the conclusions reached by the majority of the
committee. Proceedings in Minnesota's courts, including
criminal proceedings, are public. See Minneapolis Star
& Tribune Co. v. Kammeyer, 341 N.W.2d 550, 559
(Minn. 1983); State v. Schmit, 139 N.W.2d 800,
802-03 (Minn. 1966). The results of the pilot project, in
particular the input from courtroom participants and
attendees about the permitted coverage, allow us to conclude
that the conditions that govern the coverage of these public
proceedings provide the appropriate balance between the
fundamental right of a defendant to a fair trial and the
judicial branch's commitment to the fair, open, and
impartial administration of justice. We thus turn to the
committee's specific recommendations.
the committee recommends that the rules governing the pilot
project be permanently codified to govern media requests to
cover post-guilt criminal proceedings.We agree. We
recognize that some committee members preferred continuation
of the pilot project, based on a concern that fewer than
expected requests to cover proceedings were made and granted.
But without substantial changes to the structure of the
pilot, we do not see that extending the pilot project will
gamer a significantly greater number of coverage requests.
Even with the conditions in place, requests to cover
proceedings were made and granted within days of the
effective date of the pilot project. Nothing in the
conditions that governed the pilot project suggests that
media requests to cover proceedings were stymied by factors
that would come to light, and could be addressed, if the
pilot is continued without changes, and the committee does
not recommend these sort of changes as a means to increase
media coverage of criminal proceedings generally or
post-guilt proceedings specifically. Thus, we can only
conclude that the limited number of coverage requests during
the pilot project may be wholly unrelated to the pilot
project, i.e., the possibility that media resources were
dedicated to news events other than post-guilt proceedings in
Minnesota's district courts. In summary, we can identify
no benefit to extending the pilot project in its current form
because we do not see that a longer pilot will result in a
significantly increased number of coverage requests.
the committee recommends amendments to clarify and refine the
category of domestic-violence proceedings in which coverage
is generally prohibited, by confining the category of
excluded cases to those in which the victim is defined as a
family or household member under Minn. Stat. § 518B.01,
subd. 2(b) (2016). The committee also recommends that cases
with charges of murder committed while committing or
attempting to commit criminal sexual conduct in the first or
second degree be included in the category of
prohibited coverage. See Minn. Stat. §
609.185(a)(2) (2016). We agree with both recommendations.
These refinements to the language of the rule are consistent
with the interests of privacy and safety that led to the
exclusion of similar cases from the scope of permitted
do not accept the committee's recommendation to permit
coverage of cases involving charges of domestic violence in
which the victim is deceased. Victim concerns may be
different in these cases, as the committee noted, but this
difference does not change the fact that, as with other
domestic-violence and sexual-misconduct cases, these cases
often involve egregious and salacious facts. In addition, we
are reluctant to establish divisions within this specific
category of cases because to do so risks undermining the
effort to foster balanced, fair, and open coverage that
adequately protects the interests of victims and victims'
family members. For similar reasons, we reject the request of
some commenters to permit coverage in all criminal cases,
regardless of the nature of the charges.
the committee recommends amendments to clarify the
circumstances in which a coverage request can be denied.
Specifically, the committee recommends language that
establishes, clearly, that lack of consent to a coverage
request is not good cause to deny that request, and that
coverage is permitted in post-guilt proceedings even if a
guilty plea is not accepted until the sentencing hearing. We
agree that these ...