Courtrooms are generally open to the public, so journalists do not need special credentials, other than general identification, to enter the U.S. District Court Facilities. However, permission from the presiding judge is required before anyone may bring an electronic device or cell phone into the courtroom. Anyone present in the courtroom must abide by any rules or decorum orders specified by the presiding judge.
The courthouse opens to the public at 9:00 A.M. Anyone entering the courthouse is subject to courthouse security procedures. All briefcases, purses, parcels, bags, backpacks, and other items shall be passed through an x-ray scanner and are subject to search. A valid government ID, such as a driver's license or passport, is required to enter the courthouse.
No electronic devices are allowed in the Courthouse without prior permission from the presiding judge. You may apply for such permission by submitting the following affidavit to the presiding judge's chambers for approval: Affidavits submitted at the last minute may be denied.
Affidavit for Electronic Devices
Contact Information for Chambers
Please review Local Rule 83.4(a) and (b), which governs the use of cameras and electronic devices:
(a) Photography and Broadcasting Prohibited. Taking photographs, video or audio recordings or broadcasting by radio, television or other means in or from the courtroom or its environs is prohibited, regardless of whether the court is actually in session. The environs of the courtroom extend to all portions of the building in which a courtroom is located, including hallways, stairs, and elevators.
(b) Electronic Devices Prohibited. Electronic devices capable of transmitting images or messages are prohibited in the courtroom except when such equipment is being utilized by attorneys and support personnel directly involved in the litigation before the Court. Cellular telephones must be turned off or in the vibrate/silent mode in the courtroom.
You may access the local rules for the Northern District here.
Most court records are in electronic format and are accessible to the public through the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) database. PACER may be accessed at the public terminals available in the Clerk's Office or by opening a PACER account. You may open a PACER account by visitng https://pacer.uscourts.gov or by contacting the PACER service center at 1-800-676-6856.
Resources for Covering the Federal Courts:
Understanding the Federal Courts
A Journalist's Guide to the Federal Courts