New Mexico Judge Says First Amendment Is Subservient To The 'Dignity Of The Court'

from the lawyers:-begin-routing-your-1st-A-cases-elsewhere... dept

Many government entities do little more than tolerate the existence of the press, knowing that anything they do that appears to restrict First Amendment activities will backfire horribly. These are the smart ones. Then there are others who are too obtuse to recognize the censorious gun they think they're pointing at others is actually resting about temple-level on their own heads.

Cue the idiotic "memorandum" issued to journalists by the Second Judicial District Court located in Albuquerque, New Mexico:

A memorandum to members of the media issued June 2 by Chief Judge Nan G. Nash and Clerk of the Court James Noel requires “at least twenty-four (24) hours advanced notice to the Clerk of the Court of their desire to report on any matter within or regarding the Court. Members of the media shall enter the Courthouse through its main entrance and through Court Security. Upon entrance, members of the media shall proceed to Court Administration to ‘sign-in’ with the Clerk of the Court and to verify that they provided twenty-four hours advanced notice to the Court.”
While court proceedings are subject to some restrictions (even more so if handling juvenile cases), there is no Constitutional limitation that supports a demand for "24 hour advanced [sic] notice," much less "intermediate notice" or "beginner's notice." The state does not have a right to demand journalists "check in" ahead of time and ask for permission to cover open public court proceedings.

And the demand goes further than just court proceedings. The language says "any matter within or regarding the Court," which could be read as covering any interaction between media members and the court. This is clearly ridiculous. The Rio Grande Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists wasted little time condemning the memo.
The public has a right to see its justice system at work. Impeding the work of journalists who report from the courts will only erode that right and, we fear, limit the community’s access to this institution.

Moreover, we do not believe the court has any authority to require our members or any other journalists to provide advance notice of reporting on “any matter regarding the court” (emphasis added). Nor do we believe the court has any authority to require reporters “sign in” with security even when carrying nothing more than what a lawyer or litigant might tote around the building.
According to the memo, some unspecified "recent violations" have somehow "detracted" from the "dignity of the Court." Well, if it had any "dignity" remaining, it's gone now. Especially considering this was the explanation given when Judge Nan Nash -- who authored the memo -- walked it back in the face of public backlash.
Chief Judge Nan Nash said late Wednesday that she was rewriting the policy.

“This is overbroad,” she admitted. “It was never intended to address reporters. It’s intended to clarify the rule about when and how film crews could be present in the courthouse.”
There are certain restrictions against recording devices already in use. Why further restrictions were "needed" isn't immediately clear to anyone but Judge Nash. And if she only meant film crews, why did she write "members of the media?" Probably because she didn't expect this to be challenged, or at the very least, didn't expect a local memo to receive national media attention.

She cites in her defense a single incident in which a TV film crew "chased" down a judge who was walking down a hall while asking for an explanation of how an accused cop-killer managed to elude jail time. This may have been in violation of standing court policies (Rule 23-07 allows cameras and recording devices so long as they don't interfere with proceedings or "undermine the dignity" of the court), but if so, it should have been handled under that rule and limited to the offending news crew, rather than with a broadly-worded memo that sought to impose unconstitutional restrictions on media members.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 11:50am

    good lord.

    somewhere - if it's possible - our founding fathers are groaning.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 Jun 2015 @ 11:52am

    Dignity of court victim of the court. There will be no film at 11 because we couldn't give 24 hour notice before reporting on it.

    Sooo we are supposed to trust the judgement of a Judge who clearly either did something blatantly stupid or was unable to clearly articulate what they intended. If you were in this Judges court would you be concerned?

    And another page in the power causes a form of brain damage file.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Corrector, 8 Jun 2015 @ 11:55am

    Already FIXED AND OVER. There is/was NO such policy. Just Techdirt clickbaiting.

    As anyone who reads ALL will discover.

    And apparently writer doesn't understand difference between Court Rules and localized administrative clarifications, besides the myriad duplications in bureaucracy.

    THIS complete waste of time NON-STORY is why Techdirt's credibility rating is down there with The Onion. (Back in 2013 when Technorati kept ratings, that was verifiable.)

    How was it The Masnick himself "projected" Techdirt's policy? Oh, yes:
    "its typical approach to these things: take something totally out of context, put some hysterical and inaccurate phrasing around it, dump an attention-grabbing headline on it and send it off to the press."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 12:02pm

      Re: Already FIXED AND OVER. There is/was NO such policy. Just Techdirt clickbaiting.

      Corrector: A new name for symptoms related to cranial-rectal insertion syndrome.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DB (profile), 8 Jun 2015 @ 12:02pm

      Re: Already FIXED AND OVER. There is/was NO such policy. Just Techdirt clickbaiting.

      "Fix and over. This is/was no such policy."

      Is your claim that a trial balloon that was popped isn't worth reporting on?

      It was only because this was reported on that the rules were reversed. Pretending that it didn't happen negates that the press did their job serving the public.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 12:15pm

      Re: Already FIXED AND OVER. There is/was NO such policy. Just Techdirt clickbaiting.

      Why do you even bother having multiple usernames?
      For that matter, why do you even bother at all?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 12:17pm

      Re: Already FIXED AND OVER. There is/was NO such policy. Just Techdirt clickbaiting.

      It's OK to ignore the 1st amendment for local rules?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 12:34pm

      Re: Already FIXED AND OVER. There is/was NO such policy. Just Techdirt clickbaiting.

      If there is/was no such policy, then there wouldn't have been any need to fix anything...

      Right?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 8 Jun 2015 @ 1:56pm

      Re: Already FIXED AND OVER. There is/was NO such policy. Just Techdirt clickbaiting.

      The "It Was All Just A Dream" plot twist is from Dallas, not Albuquerque.

      Which is why Judge Nash and Clerk of the Court Noel have made that left turn at Albuquerque. Loony Tunes indeed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 2:53pm

        Re: Re: Already FIXED AND OVER. There is/was NO such policy. Just Techdirt clickbaiting.

        Is Bobby dead again? This time in Albuquerque?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 12:08pm

    Dignity of the court protection

    Recording cannot undermine the dignity of the court. The only way recorded video and/or audio can be used to undermine the dignity of the court is if 1. the members of the court are behaving in an undignified manner which then deserves to be exposed or 2. the video and/or audio is manipulated after the fact to "undermine the dignity of the court" which of course does not occur until AFTER the recording has been completed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 2:59pm

      Re: Dignity of the court protection

      Well, to be fair: if a camera crew has the urinals staked out or is doing an "upskirt" piece on judges, that would undermine the dignity of the court without the court behaving in an undignified manner.

      I don't think the "undermine the dignity" refers to the video as presented after the fact; it refers to the behavior of the individuals doing the filming undermining the social atmosphere of the courthouse. For example, if a film crew kept interrupting a judge presenting his deliberations so they could get it again from a different angle, or setting up a fake gallows in the hallway for filming.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 9 Jun 2015 @ 7:53am

        Re: Re: Dignity of the court protection

        " if a camera crew has the urinals staked out or is doing an "upskirt" piece on judges, that would undermine the dignity of the court without the court behaving in an undignified manner."

        It certainly would not. It might undermine the dignity of the judges (but only if you think being a human being is undignified), but the judges are not the court.

        "For example, if a film crew kept interrupting a judge presenting his deliberations so they could get it again from a different angle"

        Also not undermining the dignity of the court. That's simply interfering in the operation of the court, and there are existing non-dignity-related laws about that.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 8 Jun 2015 @ 12:10pm

    With so many clever login handles, one would almost think there are more than one of him. Almost.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 12:18pm

    Dear court,

    I wish to report on all court activities that take place between now and the end of time.

    Thank you,

    Filed by, the press.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 12:18pm

    Bugs Bunny once said...

    "shoulda taken that left toin at Albukoikee."

    Maybe they should not have went to Albukoikee at all from the looks of it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 12:23pm

    'how an accused cop-killer managed to elude jail time'

    must have got the people round the wrong way. we all know that it's the norm for the Police to not get Jail time when involved in shootings resulting in civilian deaths!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DigDug, 8 Jun 2015 @ 1:37pm

    Judges are employees of the State / Federal Government

    As such, we the people are their bosses.
    This includes members of the press being their bosses.

    That means that statements like the following:
    'She cites in her defense a single incident in which a TV film crew "chased" down a judge who was walking down a hall while asking for an explanation of how an accused cop-killer managed to elude jail time.'

    are pure bullshit, as when they are outside the courtroom, they are fair game for their employers to ask pointed questions about why they fucked up so royally.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 3:04pm

      Re: Judges are employees of the State / Federal Government

      While true, I can think of lots of common reasons why "an accused cop-killer managed to elude jail time" -- the foremost among them being "he wasn't guilty" followed by "the death was found to be fully unintentional and fines and community service were meted out to the juvenile responsible."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 8 Jun 2015 @ 9:18pm

    Well I think she meant camera wielding news media and they where just clarifying the regulations.
    I don't think it was as devious as everyone interpreted it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2015 @ 10:52pm

    perhaps that camera crew caught said judge at a seedy motel with a prostitute. That would certainly ruin whatever dignity that existed for them prior

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 9 Jun 2015 @ 10:43am

    And in news we have only just received, there was a rockslide at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial a week ago, with the result that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln no longer appear on either side of Theodore Roosevelt. This shocking event, which occurred on June 2...
    *innocent face*

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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