We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What does "in Camera" Mean?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 16, 2024

In camera is a Latin phrase meaning “in private” or “in chambers” and it is used in law to refer to proceedings conducted without public access. While many legal systems place an emphasis on holding trial proceedings in public whenever possible, there can be special situations where proceedings need to be held confidentially. A judge can make a decision to hear an entire trial in camera, or to review certain arguments, documents, and evidence in private, while leaving other parts of the trial open to the public.

When the legal system generally requires trials to be held in public, clear justifications must be provided for moving proceedings to a private location. A common argument is a concern about national security in cases where evidence aired before the public could present a security threat. Companies may also request hearings in camera to protect trade secrets, under the argument that being forced to disclose such information in public is damaging and unfair. Confidentiality may also be extended to protect witnesses, including people at risk for their testimony, and young children who might be upset by being in a crowded courtroom with strangers.

Often, an in camera hearing or review is held in the judge's chambers. This environment is less formal and more comfortable for a small group, including the judge, the attorneys, and the witness or object under discussion. In other cases, a judge may make a request to clear the court of all members of the public and press, holding the proceedings in the courtroom.

Either side in a case can make a request to hold an entire trial or a part of a trial in camera, presenting arguments to support the request. The other side can respond if it feels the request is unreasonable. The judge will review the arguments presented and make a decision, considering the law, precedent, and the concerns raised by the parties in the case. If proceedings are held in camera, they are usually still recorded and can be referenced later.

The press and members of the public sometimes protest moves for confidentiality in a trial, arguing that the public has a right to know. Privacy-related decisions are sometimes viewed controversially, and judges may consider the potential for public outcry when weighing requests for in camera hearings and reviews. Ultimately, the judge must consider the best interests of the case and the parties involved when making a decision.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon337608 — On Jun 06, 2013

Does anyone know about the legality of blogging about the happenings of in camera proceedings as long as the involved are not named?

By indemnifyme — On Dec 23, 2011

How funny! When I clicked on this article I thought it was going to be about digital camera features. You know, "in camera" editing and stuff like that? There are a lot more in camera features than there used to be, from what I understand.

Anyway, this article was really interesting though. I'm not that familiar with our justice system, so I've never heard the term "in camera" used to discuss legal proceedings. I've of course hear of legal proceedings that were closed to the public, but I don't think they use the term "in camera" much in the media.

By SZapper — On Dec 23, 2011

@JaneAir - I see what you're saying, I do. However, I actually trust in our justice system. I think that even if a trial was held in private, things would still be done in a lawful manner. Also, I'm pretty sure there would be a record of the proceedings and some kind of administrative oversight. I think it would be difficult to subvert the justice system during a private proceeding.

Also, I think the article mentioned a lot of compelling reasons for an "in camera" proceedings. Think about witnesses who want to testify, but might be in danger for doing so. I think it would be perfectly valid to hear the witness' testimony in private in that case.

By JaneAir — On Dec 22, 2011

I don't think that any legal proceedings in the United States should ever be held "in camera." Our whole country is built on freedom and democracy-holding legal proceedings in private just seems like it's opposed to all of our values.

If a legal proceeding is held in public, how are we supposed to know that everything was done lawfully? It would be too easy to subvert the justice system to private agendas if a lot of trials were held in camera. I know there are some privacy concerns, but I just think this possibility is too dangerous to make any exceptions!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.