OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter has sent the state’s formal response to Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman in support of allowing journalists to use cameras inside the courtroom during the state’s 2019 trial against the nation’s leading opioid manufacturers.
The response comes after Judge Balkman asked all parties in the case at last month’s discovery hearing to respond to a letter he received from an attorney representing The Oklahoma Publishing Company requesting the judge allow cameras in the courtroom during the trial. He gave the attorneys on both sides 20 days to respond in writing before ruling on the issue.
Attorney General Hunter went on record during the hearing in April, saying he fully supported the admission of cameras in the courtroom during this trial. He said allowing cameras will give the public more access and the ability to see the deliberations firsthand.
“Transparency and accountability are important and allowing cameras in the courtroom will provide both,” Attorney General Hunter said. “It’s equally important not to deprive Oklahomans of the opportunity to further engage in this issue that has affected so many of our neighbors and loved ones across the state. While we will respect Judge Balkman’s decision, we encourage him to allow cameras in the courtroom for this trial.”
In the letter, Attorney General Hunter wrote his office agreed with a 1981 attorney general opinion regarding the Open Meeting Act. The opinion says that cameras and tape recorders improve accuracy in reporting on events may not be categorically barred from meetings.
“The ability to tape-record and videotape, film or photograph the proceedings of public bodies greatly enhances the accurate reporting of events transpiring at such meetings and public interest in those events will be stimulated by news accounts using the products of those instruments,” the opinion says.
There are no statutes or rules that prohibit the use of cameras during trials. District courts are allowed discretion in their admission.
To read Attorney General Hunter’s letter, click here.
To read the letter on behalf of The Oklahoman Publishing Company, click here.