November 17, 2005

Then This Week ...

This week I attended a day-long Judges/Journalists Workshop sponsored by The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Courts and Media in the National Judicial College, which was held at the Norton Woods Conference Center at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge.

The NCCM workshop was a great opportunity to see judges and reporters interact, and hear their respective concerns. The focus of the program was on access to judges, and, not surprisingly, the reporters want more access to judges, and the judges are, in general, reluctant to give it.

Video presentations showed real life examples of the opposite ends of the spectrum, with one judge dodging, then tossing a lunch tray at, a persistent reporter (after which the judge retreated to an elevator, elbow shielding his face in a manner that I am sure he later realized was all to similar to someone dodging a camera in a perp walk), to a calm, cool, and collected judge who spoke at length to a reporter all the while avoiding—appropriately—any comment on the substance of the case that had been before him.

As I recall, no one thought that the food flinging jurist comported himself properly, although there was much criticism of the “ambush” nature of the attempted interview.

While all of the media people, and media lawyers, seemed to like the way the other judge handled himself, a number of the judges were wary of his performance, even to the point of questioning whether his discussion with the reporter was a reportable (no pun intended, I assume) offense.

Later, one broadcast reporter noted that he was a bit uncomfortable with the obviously staged segment where the judge stood at his PC presumably scrolling through e-mail as the off-camera reporter talked about the volume of e-mail the judge received in response to what apparently was locally an unpopular decision.

The workshop was a good step in the direction of assessing, and ultimately improving, relations between the courts and the press, but it was obvious that there is quite a distance to go.

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