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Bar News - January 18, 2013


Court Creates Registration Process for Electronic Media

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The NH Supreme Court has approved a new registration process for members of the press who regularly use cameras and audio equipment in state courts.

Effective Jan. 1, the voluntary, annual registration process is designed to streamline requests to use video and still cameras or audio equipment to record court proceedings. It was developed over the past year by the New Hampshire Committee on the Judiciary and the Media (CJM), whose members include judges, clerks, court security personnel, broadcast and print journalists and media lawyers.

Prior to the implementation of the new procedure, news media and others who wanted to use cameras or audio equipment in a courtroom were required to submit a separate request form to the court clerk for approval each time they wanted to record a court proceeding.

Under the new system, qualifying news media organizations and individuals who want to use cameras or audio equipment in the court can file an annual registration form with the NH Judicial Branch Communications Office. Once approved, they will have access to courtrooms statewide, provided they display to the courtroom security officer a registration confirmation form from the judicial branch communications office.

It will be the responsibility of the clerk’s office, or the security officer assigned to the courtroom, to notify the presiding judge before the proceeding that a notice of cameras or audio equipment in the courtroom has been provided.

Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau, a member of the committee, said the new policy balances the court’s need to know who is using recording equipment in the courtroom with the media’s need for quick access to proceedings. She said the process of developing the policy was rewarding.

"It’s a great group of people, and the conversation is always interesting and professional," she said. "We are able to talk about what our different perspectives are and come to some consensus."

James Kimble, a Union Leader correspondent covering Rockingham County, co-chairs the CJM Committee as a representative of the NH Press Association Board of Directors.

"A fair amount of credit goes to Chief Justice Nadeau for making this happen," Kimble said, "because at the beginning of our discussions, she made it clear that she felt reporters and photographers shouldn’t have to fill out a form every time they stepped into a courtroom."

"I think we’re very fortunate to have this rapport with the courts," he added. "I’m optimistic that this will be a good, workable system."

For purposes of registration, "news media" outlets are defined as established organizations or individuals that regularly gather, report, edit, broadcast and publish news or matters of public interest, either in print or electronically. The definition includes internet-based "new media" sites that regularly update content, but does not include personal websites. It is the responsibility of online organizations to demonstrate that they meet the definition of "new media."

The determination of whether an organization or individual meets the definition of "news media" will be made by the NH Judicial Branch Administrative Council and the communications director.

The registration process does not affect existing court rules that give the presiding justice discretion over the number of cameras, recording devices and related equipment allowed in the courtroom at one time. In some high-profile cases, pool coverage may be required.

The names of all registered organizations and individuals will be posted on the Judicial Branch website.

Those who want to use cameras or audio recording devices in a courtroom but are not registered or do not meet the definition of news media must first complete an audio/video/camera notification form and submit it to the clerk’s office. The form must be approved by the presiding judge before the person or organization will be permitted to use recording equipment in the courtroom. The audio/video/camera notification form is posted on the Judicial Branch website.

The presiding judge retains discretion to deny permission to video, photograph or otherwise record court proceedings to any organization or individual whose conduct has previously disrupted court proceedings.

For more information, contact Laura Kiernan, Judicial Branch Communications Director at lkiernan@courts.state.nh.us.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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