SJC Issues New Rule on Cameras and Technology in Courtrooms

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has announced approval of a new SJC Rule 1:19 governing Electronic Access to the Courts. The new rule replaces the former rule, which governed cameras in the courts, and extends it to recognize changes in technology and journalism since the original rule was promulgated. Notably, the rule is designed to recognize so-called citizen journalists. A PDF of the new rule is here: SJC Rule 1:19.

The MNPA was part of the committee that helped draft this new rule. Others on the committee included judges, clerks, court administrators, lawyers, media representatives and bloggers. Key provisions of the new rule, as outlined in an SJC announcement today, include:

  • The news media are defined as those who are regularly engaged in the reporting and publishing of news or information about matters of public interest. This would include citizen journalists who meet this standard.
  • The news media are allowed to use laptop computers and other electronic communication devices inside courtrooms if they are not disruptive to the proceedings.
  • Those seeking to cover the courts using the permitted technology are required to register with the SJC’s Public Information Officer, confirm that they meet the definition of news media and agree to follow the provisions in Rule 1:19. A judge has the discretion to permit electronic access by a person who had not registered.
  • In addition to one video and one still camera, a second mechanically silent video camera is allowed for use by media other than broadcast television and still photographers.
  • Motions to suppress may be electronically recorded.
  • If news media ask to record multiple cases in a session on the same day, a judge may reasonably restrict the number of cases that are recorded to prevent undue administrative burdens on the court.
  • The rule applies to clerk magistrates conducting public proceedings.

The rule represents a significant step forward for electronic access to Massachusetts courts.

Hearing March 6 on Bill to Create Journalist Shield for Mass.

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing this week on a bill to create a journalist shield law in Massachusetts. House Bill 2255, the Free Flow of Information Act, sponsored by Rep. Alice Hanlon Peisch (D-Wellesley), would bar state government from compelling members of the news media to disclose the source of any news or information.

The hearing is set for Tuesday, March 6, at 1 p.m. in State House Room A-2.

The bill would also bar the compelled disclosure of notes, outtakes, film and other materials collected by a reporter but not used in any news report, unless a court first determines that the information cannot be obtained anywhere else and there is an overriding public interest in the disclosure.

In addition to barring disclosure of sources and notes, the bill would prohibit the state from compelling a reporter to testify except in cases where disclosure of the identity of a source is necessary to prevent imminent acts of terrorism.

Massachusetts is one of only 10 states that does not have a statute that shields journalists from subpoenas. Last April, West Virginia became the 40th state to enact such a law. The District of Columbia also has a shield law.

The Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association and the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association will be among those testifying at Tuesday’s hearing. Others with an interest in this bill are encouraged to testify or attend and show their support.

Questions or suggestions may be addressed to MNPA Executive Director Robert Ambrogi, 978-546-3400, ambrogi@legaline.com.

Annual Meeting Features Elizabeth Warren, Suzanne Bump

Senate Candidate Warren Slated to Address Luncheon; State Auditor Bump to Speak Earlier

The annual meeting and luncheon of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association — set for Thursday, Dec. 1 — will feature speeches from two women prominent in Massachusetts politics.

Warren

Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, will be the featured speaker at the luncheon. The New York Times said she is “provocative and assertive in her critique of corporate power” and “eloquent in her defense of an eroding middle class.” The National Law Journal named Warren one of the most influential lawyers of the decade.

Suzanne M. Bump, who is in her first year as the Massachusetts auditor, will address the meeting prior to the lunch, starting at 11 a.m. Bump is expected to speak about her initiatives to enhance accountability in state government. Prior to her election as auditor, Bump was Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development in Gov. Patrick’s Cabinet. She served eight years in the state House of Representatives, representing Braintree.

Bump

The annual meeting and luncheon are Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011, at Anthony’s Pier Four in Boston. The luncheon begins at noon with a cocktail reception. Earlier in the day, at 10 a.m., the MNPA will conduct its annual business meeting and election of 2012 officers and executive board members. Auditor Bump will speak at 11 a.m.

A registration form is available to download from the MNPA website: 2011 MNPA registration form. The meeting is open to anyone who would like to attend. Registration, which includes lunch, is $75 for MNPA member newspapers and their employees, $85 for all others.

If you have any questions about the event, please address them to MNPA Executive Director Robert Ambrogi, 978-546-3400 or info@masspublishers.org. Please register no later than Wednesday, Nov. 23.

Register Now for MNPA Annual Meeting and Luncheon

Registration is now open for the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011, at Anthony’s Pier Four in Boston. A registration form is available by clicking here: 2011 MNPA Registration Form.

Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, will be the featured speaker at this year’s luncheon. The National Law Journal named Warren one of the most influential lawyers of the decade. The New York Times said she is “provocative and assertive in her critique of corporate power” and “eloquent in her defense of an eroding middle class.”

The luncheon, which begins at noon, is also your annual opportunity to meet with newspaper publishers, editors, reporters and business staff from throughout Massachusetts.

The day’s full agenda is as follows:

  •  10 a.m. Annual business meeting and election of 2012 officers and executive board.
  • 11 a.m. Panel discussion.
  • Noon. Networking reception.
  • 12:30 p.m. Luncheon and keynote featuring Elizabeth Warren.
  • 1:30 p.m. Adjourn.

The meeting is open to anyone who would like to attend. Registration, which includes lunch, is $75 for MNPA member newspapers and their employees, $85 for all others.

If mailing your registration without the form, please indicate the name of each registrant and the registrant’s choice of luncheon entrée: Chicken Chausseur or Broiled Scrod.

If you have any questions about the event, please address them to MNPA Executive Director Robert Ambrogi, (978) 546-3400 or info@masspublishers.org. Registration deadline is Wednesday, November 23.

We look forward to seeing you on Dec. 1.

MNPA Files Amicus Brief on Access to Search Warrant Documents

The Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association joined with other news organizations last week to file an amicus brief in a case before the Supreme Judicial Court that involves public access to affidavits and other documents filed in support of a search warrant.

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 9 a.m., the SJC will hear arguments in the case, William O’Connell v. Criminal Clerk of Quincy District Court. The appeal results from a request by The Patriot Ledger in Quincy to terminate an impoundment order covering documents filed in support of a warrant to search O’Connell’s condominium. O’Connell’s principle argument in support of maintaining the secrecy of the documents is that they involve allegations of rape and sexual assault. But the District Court judge, in lifting the impoundment order, ordered that any references to the alleged victim be redacted to protect her privacy.

The MNPA filed its brief — which can be downloaded from the SJC’s website — in conjunction with the New England Newspaper and Press Association, the Citizen Media Law Project and the New England First Amendment Coalition. Andover media-law attorney Peter J. Caruso Sr. wrote the brief for the MNPA.

The arguments at the SJC this week will be webcast.

AG’s Site Now Lets Users Search Open Meeting Rulings By Topic, Location

After taking over enforcement of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law last year, Attorney General Martha Coakley launched a portion of her website devoted to the new law,www.mass.gov/ago/openmeetings, and later began posting the determinations issued by her office in response to complaints under the law.

Now that site has taken a major step forward in usability by adding an OML Determination Lookup feature. Before, you could only browse determinations by name of case. That told you nothing about the issue involved in the case. Now, the site lets you search for key terms or phrases or by actions ordered. You can also search by city or town, county, or public body.

20 Mass. Newspapers Publish Joint Editorial Today Endorsing Stronger Public Records, Open Meetings Laws

Something extraordinary happened today on the editorial pages of Massachusetts daily newspapers. More than 20 of the state’s newspapers agreed to jointly run an editorial endorsing reforms to the public records and open meetings laws that would help bring about increased government transparency.

The editorials came about with the support (non-financial) of the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, the New England First Amendment Coalition, the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association and the New England Newspaper & Press Association, all of whom endorse these reforms.

Here are links to the editorials in the participating papers:

AG to Hold Hearing on Proposed Regs to Allow Remote Participation in Public Meetings

The Attorney General will hold a public hearing tomorrow, Sept. 6, on proposed regulations that would allow members of public boards and commissions to participate in meetings remotely under certain circumstances.

The proposed regs would allow a member to participate remotely only for:

  • Personal illness.
  • Personal disability.
  • Emergency.
  • Military service.
  • Geographic distance.

The regs would require that a quorum be physically present at the meeting location and that remote participants be clearly audible to everyone in attendance at the meeting location.

The public hearing on the proposed regs is 4 to 6 p.m. and will be held at One Ashburton Place, 21st Floor, Boston. You can obtain a PDF of the proposed regulations here: Request for Comment on Proposed Regulations.

Save the Date: 2011 MNPA Annual Meeting Dec. 1

Block out your calendars for the MNPA’s annual meeting and luncheon on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011, at Anthony’s Pier Four in Boston. The luncheon offers an opportunity to meet with newspaper publishers, editors, reporters and business staff from throughout Massachusetts.

The luncheon begins with a reception at noon. Earlier in the day, at 10 a.m., the MNPA will hold its annual business meeting and election of officers and members. At 11 a.m., there will be a panel discussion on a timely topic of interest.

Registration materials will be available in the fall. Watch this site for further information. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about the event, please address them to MNPA Executive Director Robert Ambrogi, (978) 546-3400 or info@masspublishers.org.