An advisory committee reviewing the effects of cameras in Minnesota courtrooms convened Friday to discuss state policies governing when and how media companies can record court proceedings.

The 20-person Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure discussed whether certain types of cases should be excluded from camera coverage and whether standards should be different before and after a guilty plea or verdict, among other topics.

The meeting focused on tweaking recommendations crafted by the committee in 2014 and policies the state Supreme Court rolled out afterward. Committee members largely refrained from addressing broader questions about cameras in courtrooms, aside from brief comments.

"When we talk about the public's interest, we're really just talking about … seeing it as opposed to reading or hearing about it," said committee member Greg Scanlan. "What's that extra bonus, that extra public interest, that the public gets from seeing who these people are?"

Scanlan, an assistant Hennepin County public defender, made his remarks in reference to a conversation about whether to allow cameras into treatment courts, which are now off-limits aside from graduations.

The downside of cameras "far outweighed" the upside, Scanlan said, "particularly where treatment courts are concerned."

Camera coverage is not allowed in treatment courts or for sex crimes, domestic violence cases and first-degree murder cases where a sexual assault or other crime has also occurred.

Assistant Washington County Attorney Nick Hydukovich advocated for keeping those exclusions in place.

"At the end of the day, what we're doing is balancing interests," he said. "There does not need to be cameras in every case and these are the most sensitive cases for victims."

Assistant Anoka County Attorney Kelsey Kelley said cameras should be prohibited from treatment court because "very sensitive" issues about a person's recovery and therapy are often discussed.

The committee briefly discussed how camera access fit into the First Amendment right to free speech and freedom of the press.

"There's been plenty of exercise of the First Amendment … before cameras were invented," Scanlan said. "People can still come to an open courtroom … there's plenty of room in print media … broadcast media for describing firsthand what they saw in open court."

Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Paul Thissen raised the broader issue of technology in modern culture.

"I guess I'd say we're also talking about a generational thing," Thissen said. "I know how my kids get access; they don't read newspapers."

Thissen told the committee, which is composed of judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers, that they can't lose sight of how others interact with the courts.

In an unrelated discussion, committee member Anders Erickson questioned the value of the media broadcasting snippets of a court proceeding.

"When you have media kind of taking little clips of something and putting it on the news without a full understanding of what the testimony was about … I don't think you necessarily get the full picture," he said.

Current policies allow cameras in the courtroom after a guilty plea or verdict if the presiding judge approves. The committee plans to discuss camera access for trials during its next meeting in January. Now, cameras are allowed at trial only when all participants consent and with a judge's approval.

An exception was made earlier this year for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin due to COVID-19 social distancing protocols that severely limited courtroom access.

Two months after Chauvin's trial, which was livestreamed, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an order asking the committee to review the camera policies, noting that cameras "increased transparency and accessibility" during the pandemic.

The November trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter will also be livestreamed due to COVID-19.

The committee is expected to issue a report to the Minnesota Supreme Court by July 1 of next year.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708

Twitter: @ChaoStrib