Strike Two You’re Out: Charlotte Judge Bans Cameras in Courtroom After Latest Lapse

By Kevin Eck 

cameras in courtroomCameras have been banned from courtrooms in the Mecklenburg County Courthouse after news photogs from Charlotte TV stations violated courtroom camera protocol for the second time in five months.

In May, Superior Court Judge Richard Boner met with the news directors of the Charlotte TV stations to go over courtroom rules after a TV news photog tweeted out a cellphone photo during a trial.

The Charlotte Observer reports, the latest incident happened when the City Attorney was recorded in a hallway after leaving a hearing.

Charles Keller Jr., community access administrator for the courthouse, notified Charlotte media outlets Tuesday that any requests for photography inside the courthouse will be summarily denied until further notice because of a violation Friday, when news cameras from five TV stations and the Observer filmed in the hallway.

City Attorney Bob Hagemann was filmed when he walked out of Judge Robert Ervin’s courtroom after a hearing about the regional airport commission. A group of reporters and photographers were gathered in the hallway and asked for an interview, Hagemann said.

“I didn’t give it a thought,” he said. “I wasn’t aware of the rule.”

But since 1992, the judicial district has banned photography in hallways and other public spaces in the courthouse unless permission is specifically given. In May, an NBC Charlotte journalist shot a cellphone picture and Tweeted it to followers outside the courtroom where Carolina Panther Greg Hardy had just appeared on a domestic-abuse charge.

This led to a meeting between Boner, senior resident judge, and representatives of Charlotte media outlets in which courtroom photography policies were reiterated.

“Despite these efforts, the rules continue to be flouted,” Keller told news executives in his notification Tuesday.

Keller said that random photography in the courthouse is not allowed for a variety of reasons, including to protect the identity of witnesses, jurors and others.

Keller said photographers involved in recording the impromptu press conference were Rob McMannen of Time Warner Cable News, Todd Sumlin of the Observer, Dan Yesenosky of WCNC (Channel 36), Bronson Hill of WCCB (Channel 18), Josh Stender of WSOC (Channel 9) and Mike Rode of WBTV (Channel 3).