Bill introduced to permit cameras in Supreme Court

A bi-partisan group of legislators stood in front the United States Supreme Court on Thursday to introduce the Eyes on the Court Act of 2015. The law would require the United States Supreme Court and other federal appeals courts to broadcast video coverage of court proceedings.

Efforts to open up the most secretive branch of government have failed in the past, but advocates of the bill cite the current mistrust in the Supreme Court and the bipartisan support as reasons why the Eyes on the Court Act could garner momentum.

Additionally, the bill boasts an option for closing proceedings if the broadcast would “violate the due process rights of a party to the proceeding or is otherwise not in the interests of justice.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Virginia), Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Illinois), and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) back the bill.

“How is it possible that we can keep up with the Kardashians, but we cannot keep up with the Supreme Court?” Rep. Nadler asked at the press conference in front of the Supreme Court.

Gregg Leslie, legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, also attended the press conference. Leslie told the audience studies have shown that cameras do not affect oral argument participants.

The Second and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have already successfully implemented broadcasting oral arguments.

u-s-supreme-court-1-1221080-640x480

Advertisements

Friends of the First Amendment: Amicus briefs filled in anti-bullying, juror transparency, and open Internet cases

In 1967, the Beatles reminded us of a mantra true in both life and law: You get by with a little help from your friends.

In the legal realm, the parties to litigation often lean on allies to craft and file briefs in an effort to convince a court a particular side should prevail. These briefs are called “amicus curiae” briefs or friend-of-the-court briefs. The briefs, submitted by interested organizations, provide supplementary arguments to the court in an attempt to ensure that particular interests are protected. In addition to amicus briefs, amicus letters can be submitted in some states asking a court to review a lower court opinion.

Many organizations, such as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (my current employer), the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, frequently intervene on behalf of parties to advocate for the First Amendment rights of journalists and the public.

For example, in Elonis v. United States, a First Amendment case before the United States Supreme Court during the 2015 term, a number of amicus briefs were filed, including briefs from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Student Press Law Center, Center for Individual Rights, and People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), among others. Click here to read the Reporters Committee’s amicus brief in Elonis.

Amicus briefs are not only written to the United States Supreme Court (although these garner the most attention). Interested parties can file friend-of-the-court briefs in appellate courts (appeals courts) and district courts (trial courts) at both the state and federal level.

Recently, there have been a number of amicus briefs filed advocating for the First Amendment:

Electronic Frontier Foundation

  • CaseState v. Bishop
  • Court: North Carolina Supreme Court
  • Argument: North Carolina’s anti-bullying statute violates the First Amendment. 1. The law clearly restricts speech, not just conduct. 2. The law is a content-based restriction on speech because it restricts particular kinds of communication.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

  • Case: State ex. rel. BuzzFeed v. Cunningham
  • Court: Supreme Court of Missouri
  • Argument: The jury list in the high profile criminal case of Michael L. Johnson, accused of recklessly transmitting the HIV virus, should be unsealed. Jury lists are presumptively open under the First Amendment and their closure can be justified only upon a showing of a compelling governmental interest. The Reporters Committee further argued that providing the press with access to jury lists increases public confidence by ensuring that the judicial process is conducted in the open and by exposing potential corruption.

15 First Amendment and cyberlaw scholars

  • Case: United States Telecom Association v. Federal Communications Commission and United States of America
  • Court: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • Argument: Defending the FCC’s Open Internet Rules on First Amendment grounds.

ML_NewColor

From admirer to journalist to legal fellow: The road to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Surreal.

Surreal is the most fitting word to summarize my first week working for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C., as the new Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Legal Fellow.

Growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, I was not a traditional child. Among the many reasons I was different was my addiction to the media at an early age. Unlike many of my childhood friends, instead of peering into the television watching cartoons in the morning, my nose was deep into the daily newspaper. At night, rather than loudly singing along to pop tunes in the shower, I would turn on talk radio and quietly listen to news updates, bombastic opinions, and commentary from many “longtime listeners, first time callers.”

Journalists were my heroes. As a young man I looked up and admired those that graced the front page of the newspaper – not those featured in the headlines and photos – but rather the ones acknowledged in black-and-white minuscule print in the byline. I recognized the names of those reporting the news more easily than the names of the ones making the news.

Journalists embodied everything I was not growing up. While I was a shy child afraid to challenge authority, journalists fearlessly held those in power responsible and provided a check on the government as the fourth estate. While I felt my speech chilled and my true feelings often suppressed, journalists boldly gave a voice to the voiceless, pushing the envelope and challenging the status quo. The authentic and courageous nature of journalists were characteristics I wanted to exemplify as an adult.

Once I reached the point where I began paving a career path for myself, I decided to major in journalism. I saw being a journalist as a way for me to come out of my shell and create my own independent identity separate from the one given to me in my youth.

I distinctly remember the first time I told my parents I wanted to study journalism at the Louisiana State University Manship School of Mass Communication. My CPA mother and businessman father did not know quite how to react, but lovingly, they supported my decision. I wish I could have captured the thoughts going through their mind at that moment I announced my intention to become a journalist. I know it was not what they expected or maybe hoped, but their trust in my decision meant the most.

My parents had lofty expectations for me after I graduated third in my high school class (“Thirdatorian” as I dubbed it in my school’s newspaper, The Raider’s Digest). To many people, achieving academic success meant you were expected to pursue a more traditional, stable, and lucrative career route, such as medicine, engineering, or business. But my life has never been traditional. I saw being a journalist – although unorthodox and underappreciated – as a job in which you stood for a greater cause. To me, being a journalist – pursuing and sharing the truth with the world – was a noble career.

After four years of studying the ins and outs of journalism at Louisiana State University, I graduated in 2012 with a B.A. in mass communication with a concentration in journalism. More importantly, I gained invaluable experience during those four years working as a journalist for The Daily Reveille, FoxSports, SportsNola.com, and as a radio reporter for WGSO 990 AM and KLSU 91.1 FM. I was fortunate enough to do the same job as those I looked up to as a child, and in doing so, I gained an even greater respect for the journalism profession.

After spending time as a journalist myself, I am now helping journalists pursue the truth, disseminate the news, and exercise their First Amendment rights. It is a sincere honor and privilege to begin my legal career in Washington, D.C., with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The Reporters Committee, which began in 1970, provides legal resources, support, and advocacy to protect the First Amendment rights of the press. As the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Legal Fellow, I focus specifically on the issues of defamation, invasion of privacy, protection of confidential sources, and newsgathering. I will compose amicus briefs (friend-of-the-court briefs) on behalf of the press to various courts throughout the country, provide legal resources for journalists by writing informative articles for the Reporters Committee’s Web site and quarterly publication The News Media and The Law, and assist journalists with their legal questions and concerns through the Reporters Committee’s legal defense hotline.

The young man who admired journalists from afar eventually became one himself and is now assisting them with their legal needs and fighting for a cause he has held dear for years. It is, indeed, surreal.

RCFP_logo