Roundup: Michigan newspaper appeals judge’s order barring juror photos

Friday, July 21, 2000

The Times Herald has
appealed a decision by St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Peter Deegan, who
seized film from photographers after the rape trial of a former mayor.
Times Herald photographers
Mark Rummel and Tony Pitts were
arrested outside the county courthouse on May 12, and their film was seized
as they tried to take photographs in the aftermath of Gerald “Ajax”
Ackerman’s trial. Deegan had issued an order after the verdict, saying news
media couldn’t photograph jurors without the jurors’ consent. Deegan’s attorney
Gary Fletcher said the photographers “flagrantly violated” the order
once all 12 jurors said they did not want to meet with the media. The
Times Herald contends that the
judge’s limits didn’t include necessary time and geographic boundaries, and
that the arrests and the seizure of film without a hearing constituted a
continuing violation of free-press and due-process rights and due-process
rights. Associated Press

Tennessee: Newspaper seeks to join lawsuit against legislative
closed meetings

The Tennessean plans to ask
a judge if it can join a lawsuit challenging closed meetings held by members of
the state Legislature, attorneys for the newspaper said. The lawsuit, joined
last week by the weekly Nashville
and the Internet news site Nashville, seeks
renewed and open meetings on the state budget and asks that Circuit Court Judge
Hamilton Gayden enjoin the Legislature from any further violations of the Open
Meetings Act. The original lawsuit, filed June 30 on behalf of former
television newsman Mark Mayhew, claimed legislators met secretly to discuss the
budget during the last session in violation of the Open Meetings Act.
The Tennessean’s filing, called an
amicus curiae brief, is intended to emphasize a provision of the state
constitution that protects free press. Associated Press

North Carolina: Group forms to promote prayers at football

More than 350 church pastors and their followers gathered in North
Carolina July 19 to promote efforts to counter a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on
school prayer and promote prayer by spectators at football games this fall.
Churches involved in the effort are soliciting contributions to pay for an
advertising campaign, said the Rev. Ralph Sexton, pastor of Trinity Baptist
Church in Asheville. The pro-prayer campaign will place advertisements in
newspapers, radio and television as well as billboards urging spectators to
pray before football games. The Supreme Court last month reaffirmed that
government-sponsored prayer in public schools is unconstitutional.
With a 6-3 vote in
Santa Fe Independent School District v.
, the court barred school officials from letting students
lead stadium crowds in prayers before football games. Sexton said he won’t
encourage school officials or students to lead the prayer. In addition, the
group will conduct petition drives urging Congress to pass a constitutional
amendment reversing court decisions disallowing organized prayer in schools.
Associated Press

Virginia: ACLU to seek reversal of Net-sex ban

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia will ask the U.S.
Supreme Court to overturn a law barring state employees from accessing sexually
explicit material on the Internet, the organization said July 20. Six college
professors filed a lawsuit challenging the law, arguing that it was an
unconstitutional impediment to academic freedom and would inhibit legitimate
research. However, the 4th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law in a 8-4 ruling last month. The
ACLU filed papers July 19, asking the appeals court to delay enforcement of the
law while the organization appeals to the Supreme Court. Kent Willis, the
ACLU’s executive director for Virginia, said he expected to file the appeal in
the next two months. Associated Press

Michigan: State attorney general appeals judge’s decision on
anti-stalking law

State Attorney General Jennifer Granholm has filed an appeal
challenging a federal judge’s ruling that Michigan’s anti-stalking law is
unconstitutional. The appeal, filed July 19 with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in Ohio, is one of several avenues lawmakers and domestic violence
activists are taking to ensure Michigan’s anti-stalking law remains on the
books after U.S. District Judge
Richard Enslen ruled July 14 that the law limits freedom of speech. Under
the law, people may be convicted of a felony if they make unwanted contact with
a victim two or more times and make a “credible threat” at least
once. Enslen was considering the case of convicted stalker Jerry Lee Staley,
who is serving a 15- to 25-year sentence. In her appeal, Granholm argued that
Staley’s conduct wasn’t constitutionally protected. Staley’s attorney, David
Dodge, said the law was too ambiguous. Meanwhile, state Rep. Jim Howell, R-St.
Charles, said he was drafting a bill that would address Enslen’s
constitutionality questions. Associated Press

Nevada: Federal appeals court weighs arguments in dispute over
sidewalk protests

Attorneys for a Las Vegas casino asked a federal appeals court this
week to bar union protesters from the sidewalk in front of the resort. Walter
Dellinger, a Washington, D.C., attorney for the Venetian hotel-casino, told the
9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals July 18 that individuals don’t have the right
to protest on someone else’s property. But union and ACLU lawyers told the
court July 18 that the 10-foot wide section of sidewalk in front of the Las
Vegas resort was open to public access, and people have a right to exercise
their First Amendment rights. The San Francisco-based court will rule later.
The Venetian filed a lawsuit last
year seeking an order declaring the sidewalk private property that couldn’t
be used for public demonstrations. The suit came after the Culinary Union
staged a massive demonstration on the Venetian sidewalks to protest what it
called the resort’s anti-labor policies. U.S. District Judge Phil Pro ruled
against the Venetian, which appealed to the federal appeals court. Associated

Kansas: State high court dismisses media challenge to court access
in murder case

The Kansas Supreme Court has dismissed a request filed by three
newspapers and the Kansas Press Association over access to court records. But
attorney Mike Merriam, who represented The
Hutchinson News, The Salina Journal, The Wichita Eagle
and the
state press association, said July 19 that the issue inevitably would come up
again. The newspapers’ complaint arose in the case of Christopher Jones, who
was sentenced July 5 to life in prison after pleading guilty to three
first-degree murder counts in the deaths of his children. After Jones was
charged, McPherson County District Court Judge Carl B. Anderson announced he
would review all motions before placing them in the public court file and
ordered attorneys not to release any motions directly to reporters.
The judge later overruled a
challenge by the newspapers and the press association, which said
Anderson’s decision hindered their efforts to inform the public. Anderson said
he was trying to balance the public’s First Amendment right to know with the
defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. Associated Press

Tennessee: County approves religious freedom plaque for

Thomas Jefferson’s 18th Century writings on religious freedom will
join a Ten Commandments plaque at the Sullivan County Courthouse. The County
Commission voted 15-7 on July 17 to allow
Gary Melvin of Bluff City to post a
plaque of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Residents may request
posting a courthouse plaque if it has historical significance and will be of no
expense to the county. Melvin’s plaque will join an “American Heritage
Documents” plaque containing the Ten Commandments, the Bill of Rights and
the Declaration of Independence. That plaque, placed in the courthouse last
December, was sponsored by the Sullivan Baptist Association and drew criticism
from the Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Associated

Texas: Attorney general creates new position to promote open

Texas Attorney General John Cornyn announced July 19 that he created a
new post specifically designed to focus on open-record decisions and to educate
state government departments about their obligations under the Open Records
Act. Rebecca Payne, who had been the open-records division chief since January
1999, will take over the new post. Under her supervision, the open-records
division issued, on average, 43% of its rulings within 20 days compared to 4%
within 20 days by the previous administration in 1998, Cornyn said. The
division also averaged 422 rulings a month, compared to 320 a month last year
and 279 a month in 1998. Associated Press

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,