Judge Backtracks on |Court Access Comments

     NASHVILLE (CN) — A Tennessee judge reportedly told a local newspaper that members of the news media need special permission to enter her courtroom, but walked back her comments late Thursday.
     Nashville General Sessions Judge Rachel Bell told the Tennessean on Wednesday that its reporter must get written permission through approval of a two-day notice to be allowed entry into her courtroom.
     “By the way, I know I have been very lenient and not strict in your appearances in my courtroom,” Bell reportedly said. “However, going forward, you are respectfully asked to comply with Rule 30. TN Supreme Court Media Guidelines.”
     According to the Tennessee State Courts website, however, that rule governing court “coverage” applies only to “any recording or broadcasting of a court proceeding by the media using television, radio, photographic, or recording equipment.”
     Court guidelines specifically state, “This rule does not govern the coverage of a proceeding by a news reporter or other person who is not using a camera or electronic equipment.”
     The Nashville newspaper says Bell’s Wednesday email continued, “Once approval is granted you are allowed to enter her courtroom. You must bring the written approval to grant entry to her courtroom.”
     Bell’s email was sent in response to questions about her conduct on the bench. The Tennessean has previously reported on a complaint against Bell accusing the judge of delaying a man’s case and interrupting testimony to take pictures with a visiting high school class.
     But in a subsequent email reportedly sent after midnight Thursday, Bell clarified her notice request to the Tennessean.
     “You are permitted, encouraged and welcome to come into the courtroom at anytime just like any other private citizen. My permission is not needed for you to be in the courtroom. I just wanted to remind you to follow Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 30-Media Guidelines when applicable and the procedures,” the judge said, according to the newspaper.

%d bloggers like this: