The Arizona Republic has reported that the controversial news website Gateway Pundit “will receive a $175,000 settlement from Maricopa County after a federal appeals court ruled that officials erred in barring a writer for the website from attending on-site election news conferences last year.”
Gregg Leslie, director of ASU College of Law’s First Amendment Clinic, had testified as an expert witness in the hearing at the U.S. District Court in this case that the reporter for the Gateway Pundit was acting as a journalist and deserved to be given credentials during November’s vote count.
In response to a request from the First Amendment Clinic for greater access for the news media to courtroom hearings and trials during the pandemic, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel revised the statewide policy to state that “judicial leadership should authorize admission of a media observer or a representative of a media pool to in-person proceedings to the extent possible.”
The previous policy had not mentioned the news media in the section about who could be allowed into a court proceeding, leaving telephonic access as the only option for reporters.
Brutinel responded to the clinic last week after the clinic had submitted written comments about concerns with media access. “During this health emergency, I meet frequently with the presiding judges from around the state and have discussed with them the importance of allowing media attendance whenever possible,” Brutinel wrote. “While I have verbally advised the presiding judges, additionally, I have revised the Health Emergency Administrative Order as reflected in the enclosed Order.”
Superior Court case: State v. Wilson, No. S0200-CR2017-00516 (Cochise Cty. Super. Ct.)
Supreme Court case: Morgan v. Dickerson, No. CV-20-0285-SA
The First Amendment Clinic has been watching how the pandemic affects access to justice, and particularly how the necessary restrictions on the process to accommodate distancing might interfere with an open and public trial. Now, these issues have suddenly ended up at the Supreme Court, after it granted our petition for expedited consideration of some limiting orders in a murder trial in Cochise County.
The Roger Wilson murder trial included an order from the judge excluding all media from the courtroom, reading the Supreme Court’s Administrative Order (which is encourages public and media access to the greatest extent possible) to not include the news media, or even a pool representative, as the “necessary persons” who can be in the courtroom. In addition, the judge said that all jurors would be identified only by numbers, with their names permanently kept from the public. We are appealing both parts of that order.