Commentary

Appeals Court Quashes Restrictions On Blogging

The Times Union will be able to resume blogging a capital murder trial under way in Florida, an appellate court said today in an emergency ruling.

The decision, by the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, quashes an order entered last week by the trial judge that restricted the paper's ability to cover the trial via live blog.

When the trial began last week, a reporter from Times-Union live-blogged the case from the courtroom. In addition to providing instantaneous commentary, she answered questions from Web users who were watching a video feed of the case, in which three brothers are on trial for the shooting death of an 8-year-old girl.

But last Thursday, the judge presiding over the case decided that the use of electronic media in the courtroom was causing a distraction. Initially the judge banned blogging altogether, but the order was later revised to allow a blogger and a still photographer to alternate with each other.

The newspaper filed an emergency appeal, which proved successful today. "The matter is remanded with directions to allow petitioner's reporter the use of a laptop computer in the courtroom unless the court finds a specific factual basis to conclude that such use cannot be accommodated without undue distraction or disruption," the appellate court wrote.

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2 comments about "Appeals Court Quashes Restrictions On Blogging".
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  1. Jay Bourne from CHI, January 20, 2010 at 6:36 p.m.

    It's good to know the appeal was successful because the trial court was in such error. This demonstrates why it's necessary to have more, not less exposure of what goes on in our legal system. Judges, just like politicians, don't want the public to know what goes on.

    Cameras in the courtroom to give the public access without physical distraction would also help the situation.

  2. Jay Bourne from CHI, January 21, 2010 at 6:11 a.m.

    Someone sitting in an OPEN courtroom, who is entering information into their laptop, smartphone or a even pad of paper should not be more distracting than the attorneys, clerk (often using a computer), stenographer (for transcripts) or even judge (many who also have a laptop or computer).

    Court security standing in a courtroom with a gun is arguably more distracting than someone sitting in the audience.

    The legal system is desperately in need of sunshine from exposing bad judges to providing the public with full view of what really goes on (and I mean the simple cases, not just high-profile ones).

    There is nothing to substantiate your concern about a distraction, but if you are really concerned, you should be a strong advocate of cameras in the courtroom, so it's viewable by anyone, anywhere, anytime. That would be a step toward justice.

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