N.M. Court Pulls New Rules for Reporters

     ALBUQUERQUE (CN) – New Mexico’s Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque is rewriting its new rules for reporters after a backlash from journalists.
     Chief Judge Nan G. Nash and Clerk James Noel on June 2 issued new rules to reporters outlining requirements for reporting on any matter “within or regarding the court.”
     The Rio Grande chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists objected the next day.
     Citing the court’s memorandum, the journalists group said the new rules require “at least twenty-four (24) hours advanced notice to the Clerk of the Court of their desire to report on any matter within or regarding the Court.”
     After submitting to a security check, “members of the media shall proceed to Court Administration to ‘sign-in’ with the Clerk of the Court and to verify that they provided twenty-four hours advanced notice to the Court.”
     The SPJ’s Rio Grande Chapter responded: “We appreciate the need for security at a courthouse where many of us work each day. But these rules mock the principle of open courts.”
     The new rules were to apply to photographers, broadcasters, film crews, and reporters “carrying nothing more than a notepad and pen,” the SPJ said.
     “The public has a right to see its justice system at work,” the society said in a statement. “Impeding the work of journalists who report from the courts will only erode that right and, we fear, limit the community’s access to this institution.”
     The court memo said the rule changes were designed to ensure the court’s “dignity.”
     The SPJ didn’t buy it. “We expect court administrators to address their concerns to those whose behavior they find disruptive,” the society said. “Establishing new, burdensome and unnecessary rules is counterproductive” and “leaves us doubting the state motives for these provisions.”
     “We do not expect unfettered access to the courts, but we do expect court officials to remember that the courthouse is not their private domain,” the SPJ added.
     The court then acknowledged that its new rules may be “overbroad” and said it would rewrite them, the NM Political Report website reported on June 4.
     In addition to requiring advance notice, the rules banned reporters from “filming, photographing, interviewing, or related activity, in the court’s hallways, lobbies and elevator foyers,” New Mexico Political Report said.
     Judge Nash told the Albuquerque Journal that the rules change “was never intended to address reporters. It’s intended to clarify the rule about when and how film crews could be present in the courthouse.”
     The Journal reported on June 4 that the rules change came because of “a television reporter’s recent cornering of a court staffer.”

%d bloggers like this: