The Missouri Supreme Court has revised its media operating rules involving cameras in the courtroom, for the first time since 1995.
The rules give discretion to local judges and courts.
Technology changes that have evolved during the past 23 years helped bring the new rules.
Reporters who want to tweet during court proceedings must receive approval from a judge.
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem addressed the new rules and a recent newspaper article during a court hearing Thursday in Jefferson City.
“Which (the article) suggested blogging and tweeting were now free game in courtrooms, that’s not the rule, I guess it could be the rule, it’s not my rule,” Beetem told reporters who were in court to cover a lawsuit against Governor Parson, over the authority to appoint a lieutenant governor.
Court operating rule 16 pertains to media operating rules. The new rule, which went into effect on July 1, addresses several areas, including tweeting.
Judge Beetem read that section to reporters in court on Thursday. It reads “No person may use any device capable of media coverage in a courtroom or court clerk’s office unless specifically authorized under the provisions of this operating rule, under the provisions of a local court rule, or by a judge in a judicial proceeding.”
Beetem is not allowing tweeting nor blogging in his courtroom.
Judge Beetem says he and others are trying hard not to ban cell phones from the courthouse.
“Our life is pretty much in our pocket, and the media has the highest potential to screw that up for everybody, only because you’re (reporters) here for the purposes of taking pictures and recording what’s going on, and we respect that role,” says Beetem.
The judge says they’re not going to have “independents in the audience running their own media show.”
Judge Beetem allows reporters to use laptops for note taking, as long as they operate quietly. He also allows them to sit in the jury box in cases like the Parson lawsuit, so reporters can be closer to attorneys and hear better.
The Missouri Supreme Court’s new operating rules note nothing restrains a judge’s ability to maintain courtroom decorum, adding that judges can permit media coverage of ceremonial proceedings or other public events.
The new rules also require reporters to have their recording equipment in place, at least 30 minutes before a court hearing.
The updated rules also address attire and decorum.
“All media personnel shall dress in suitable business attire consistent with that worn by others in the courtroom, such as lawyers, court reporters, bailiffs, clerks; shall not assume any body position inappropriate for spectators; and otherwise shall maintain proper courtroom decorum at all times while covering a judicial proceeding,” the rule reads.
Click here to listen to Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem’s comments about the Missouri Supreme Court’s updated media operating rules. Judge Beetem spoke in open court on July 5, 2018:
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