RULE 21. ELECTRONIC AND PHOTOGRAPHIC MEDIA COVERAGE OF COURT
Section 1. Authority.
This rule is adopted under the authority of Article VI, Section 3 of the North Dakota
Section 2. Definitions.
As used in this rule:
a. "Good cause," for exclusion under Section 21(4) (b) (2), means expanded media
coverage having a substantial effect on the objector which would be qualitatively different
from the effect on members of the general public and from coverage by other types of media.
b. "Judge" means the presiding officer in a judicial proceeding.
c. "Judicial proceeding" or "proceeding" includes any civil or criminal trial, hearing,
or other matter conducted before a court.
d. "Expanded media coverage" includes broadcasting, televising, electronic recording,
or photographing of a judicial proceeding for the purpose of gathering and disseminating
information to the public by media personnel.
e. "Media personnel" includes broadcasters, photographers, recorders, and any other
bona fide member of the news media who gathers or disseminates information to the public
any person or entity regularly engaged in the gathering and dissemination of news,
information, photos, or videos.
Section 3. Media Representative.
Broadcasters and photographersMedia personnelshallmust designate a person for
each administrative unit and for the supreme court with whom the court may consult as a
representative of themtheir representative.
Section 4. General.
The court may permit expanded media coverage of a judicial proceeding in the
courtroom while the judge is present, and in adjacent areas as the court may direct. Expanded
media coverage provided for in this rule may be exercised only by media personnel. This rule
does not apply to electronic recording of the official record of a judicial proceeding.
a. Coverage allowed. Media personnel may request the court before which a judicial
proceeding is pending to authorize coverage of the proceeding or of all proceedings relating
to a case. Expanded media coverage may be permitted of all judicial proceedings, except
proceedings specifically excluded by statute, this rule, or in the exercise of the judge's
b. Judge's authority to deny expanded media coverage. The judge may deny expanded
media coverage of any proceeding or portion of a proceeding in which the judge determines
on the record, or by written findings:
1. Expanded media coverage would materially interfere with a party's right to a fair
2. A witness or party has objected and shown good cause why expanded media
coverage should not be permitted;
3. Expanded media coverage would include testimony of an adult victim or witness
in a prosecution under N.D.C.C. ch. 12.1-20, or for charges in which an offense under that
chapter is an included offense or an essential element of the charge, unless the victim or
4. Expanded media coverage would include testimony of a juvenile victim or witness
in a proceeding in which illegal sexual activity is an element of the evidence; or
5. Expanded media coverage would include undercover agents or relocated witnesses.
c. Judge's authority to limit or end media coverage. The judge may limit or end
expanded media coverage at any time during a proceeding, if the judge determines on the
record, or by written findings:
1. The requirements of this rule or additional guidelines imposed by the judge have
been violated; or
2. The substantial rights of an individual participant, or rights to a fair trial will be
prejudiced by the expanded media coverage if it is allowed to continue.
d. Coverage prohibited. Proceedings held in chambers, proceedings closed to the
public, and jury selection may not be photographed, recorded, or broadcast. Conferences
between an attorney and client, witness or aide, between attorneys, or between counsel and
the court at the bench may not be recorded or received by sound equipment. Close-up
photography of jurors is prohibited.
e. No appeal of expanded media coverage decision. A judge's ruling on expanded
media coverage is not appealable.
Section 5. Requests.
Expanded media coverage must be requested as provided in this Section:
a. Appellate court proceeding. A media representative must request expanded media
coverage from the Supreme Court at least seventy-two hours2 business days before the
scheduled proceeding.and must set forth which type of coverage is sought, including
whether live coverage is sought. The request must be by regular mail and, if possible, by
facsimilemade by electronic means, with copies to counsel of record. The Court may
determine the coverage of any proceeding.
b. Trial court proceeding. A media representative must request media coverage
through the Odyssey case management system from the judge of the trial court before which
the proceeding is scheduled at least seven days before the proceeding.and must set forth
which type of coverage is sought, including whether live coverage is sought. Notice of the
request for coverage must be given to all counsel of record and any pro se partiesself-represented litigants. A copy of the notice of request must be sent by the fastest reasonable
means to all counsel of record, any pro se parties, and the judge. The notice must be in
writing and filed with proof of service with the clerk of the appropriate court. If the
proceeding is scheduled less than seven days in advance, a request for coverage and notice
of request must be given as soon as practicable.
c. Single request for all proceedings. Following the procedures in subsection (b), a
media representative may make a single request to cover all proceedings in a case. The judge
may not grant the request for all proceedings if a criminal defendant is not represented by
d. Equipment and technical variance. Upon application of media personnel, the judge
may permit the use of equipment or technology not provided for in this rule. An objection
to any variance in equipment or technology must be made as provided in Section 6. The
judge may rule on a variance without advance application or notice, if all parties and counsel
e. Deadlines may be extended or reduced by court order. Section 6. Objections to Coverage in Trial Court Proceeding.
A party to a proceeding objecting to expanded media coverage in a trial court must
file a written objection with the court, stating the grounds for the objection at least three days
before the scheduled proceeding. Notice of the objection must be sent to the media
representative who requested the coverage.
The judge shallmust rule on an objection before the scheduled proceeding or at the
time the objection is raised. The judge may rule on the written objection and timely filed
responses or the judge may give counsel, parties, witnesses, and requesting media personnel
and opportunity to present additional evidence by affidavit or by other means as the judge
may direct. The judge may extend or reduce the time for filing an objection. The judge may
extend the right of objection to a person not specifically provided for in this rule.
Section 7. Equipment and Media Personnel.
Unless the court directs otherwise, equipment used in a judicial proceeding is limited
to a single television cameratwo professional-quality video cameras operated by one person
each and onetwo audio system systems for radio broadcasts. Only oneTwo still
photographer isphotographers are allowed in a judicial proceeding. AnyIf media pooling
neededis necessary because of these limitations on equipment and personnel, it is the sole
mandatory responsibility of the media and must be arranged before coverage without calling
on the court to mediate. Every effort must be made for the joint use of broadcasting
equipment within the courtroom. Wires, microphones, and similar equipment must be placed
as unobtrusively as possible within the courtroom at least fifteen minutes before the
proceeding and must be secured or taped down when appropriate. Artificial lighting and
flashbulbs are not permitted. Only equipment that does not produce distracting noises is
allowed in the courtroom. Media coverage outside the courtroom must be handled with care
and discretion, but need not be pooled or held to the restrictions of this rule., except as
provided in section 8.
The quantity and types of equipment permitted in the courtroom is in the discretion
of the judge. All forms of media must be given equal access to proceedings.
Section 8. Technical.
a. All equipment, including televisionvideo cameras, is to be designed or modified
so participants in the judicial proceeding being covered are unable to determine when
recording is occurring. Still cameras must be selected for quietness, and be operated
unobtrusively and as quietly as possible.
b. Microphones for counsel and judges must be equipped with off and on switches to
facilitate compliance with Section 4(d).
c. With the judge's approval, existing courtroom light sources may be modified (e.g.,
higher wattage light bulbs), if the modifications are made and maintained without public
d. Audio pickup for expanded media coverage must use any existing audio system in
the courtroom, if the pickup would be technically suitable for broadcast. If possible,
electronic audio recording equipment and any media personnel must be located outside of
e. Media personnel must be located in, and coverage of the proceedings must take
place from, an area or areas designated by the judge. The area or areas designated must
provide reasonable access to the proceeding to be covered. Even if expanded media coverage
of a proceeding is granted, media personnel may not record interviews for broadcast in the
hallways immediately adjacent to the entrances to the courtroom. Photographing through the
windows or open doors of the courtroom is prohibited.
f. TelevisionVideo cameras and audio equipment may be installed or removed from
the courtroom only when the court is not in session.
Section 9. Decorum.
The decorum and dignity of the court, the courtroom, and the proceedings must be
maintained at all times. Court customs must be followed. Media personnel shallmust dress
appropriately for the proceedings. Movement about the courtroom is limited, and efforts must
be made not to leave the courtroom while proceedings are in progress. Loud talking is not
permitted while proceedings are in progress.
In addition to specific responsibilities provided in this rule, judges must take whatever
steps are necessary to ensure that expanded media coverage is conducted without
compromising the safety of persons having business before the court.
Section 10. North Dakota Advisory Commission on CamerasElectronic Media in the
The North Dakota Advisory Commission on CamerasElectronic Media in the
Courtroom is appointed by the Chief Justice, and consists of two members of the North
Dakota Bar Association, two members of the North Dakota Judicial Conference, one member
of the Dakota Press Photographers Associationrepresenting news photographers, two
members of the North Dakota Broadcasters Association, one member of the North Dakota
Trial Lawyers Association for Justice, and, if appointed as a member, thea person designated
in Section 3. The associations or their presidents recommend their members for appointment.
Members serve staggered three-year terms, and are eligible for reappointment. A member
may not serve more than three consecutive terms. A former member who served three
consecutive terms is eligible for reappointment after a six-year break in service. The Chief
Justice designates the chair.
The Commission shall conduct a continuing evaluation of the operation of this rule
and shall submit its findings and recommendations to the Supreme Court. The Commission
shallmust receive and consider complaints from any person concerning the rules directed to
it by the Supreme Court, and, if the complaint cannot be satisfactorily resolved by the
Commission, submit a report to the Supreme Court.
Section 11. This rule was amended effective April 1, 2006.
HISTORY: Adopted March 29, 1984, effective July 1, 1984. Amendments adopted
May 13, 1987. August 28, 1990, order continuing N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 21(E). Emergency
amendments adopted effective May 18, 1994. N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 21 amendments
adopted effective July 1, 1995, incorporate and amend N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 21E.
Amended effective April 1, 2006 (Supreme Court No. 20060059).