GA Federal Judge Bans Courtroom Tweeting
the Court finds that the contemporaneous transmission of electronic messages from the courtroom describing the trial proceedings, and the dissemination of those messages in a manner such that they are widely and instantaneously accessible to the general public, falls within the definition of “broadcasting” as used in Rule 53. Therefore, this type of broadcasting is prohibited under Rule 53, unless the application of Rule 53 is unconstitutional because it unduly restricts the freedom of the press under the First Amendment.
By that rationale, live-blogging trial would also be prohibited. Other courts have had no problem with it, e.g., the Scooter Libby and Joe Nacchio trials. The 10th Circuit even allowed live-blogging of oral arguments in the Nacchio appeal. [More...]
I don't think a reporter or blogger's twittering or live-blogging is broadcasting "the judicial proceedings." They are broadcasting their interpretation of the proceedings. Even if they quote portions, they are not representing them to be replicas of the official transcript or proceedings. And what if they are doing it from an overflow courtroom or media room into which the proceedings are being broadcast?
Twittering represents even less of a broadcast than live-blogging, since it's limited to 140 words and unlikely to even be an attempt at a transcript.
A state court judge in Denver has barred tweeting in an upcoming high profile murder trial in which cooperators are testifying. I assume that's for witness safety. When that's not an issue, who is the twittering or live-blogging going to prejudice? The jurors are already in the courtroom and instructed not to access media reports. Witnesses are advised of the rule of sequestration and can be instructed not to follow media accounts before they testify.
The AP and other major media outlets get same-day transcripts in high profile trials which they liberally quote from in their news reports. But they don't share them with the public, or with bloggers, and most bloggers can't afford them, so live-blogging is the only way for bloggers to get their hands on what happens in the courtroom. If they take the time and make the effort to go to court and sit through the trial, they should be allowed to instantaneously report their impressions.
Even though I doubt this judge's ruling will catch fire with other federal judges, it's still a threat and bad precedent.
|< Stupak is a Radical Change | Grand Junction Proposes 12 Month Moratorium on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries >|