It is sad, but I think that becoming a legal assistant has made me want to be more engaged with civic processes. It is not sad that I want to be more engaged, it is sad that it took a change in career paths to help me realize the necessity of being active in (and informed about) the functions of government.
Part of my job has been to send in requests to cover court proceedings electronically for Utah Family Law TV (UFLTV). I did not realize this until I got my current job, but hearings from the eight district courts of Utah may be recorded for the purpose of news coverage with permission from the court. There is a form for such requests that I have filled out several times. Oddly enough, these requests are often denied. I wonder why these requests are denied, especially since the Utah Supreme Court and the Utah Court of Appeals each regularly post recordings from their public hearings online.
Judges who deny UFLTV electronic media coverage requests are required to state the reason why they choose to deny electronic coverage of a given hearing, but not all judges will do so. Those who do state their reasons for denial can range from “This case does not warrant media coverage” to the judge simply saying “No” without any justification, even though court rules require much more than that, if a judge denies an electronic media coverage request. Perhaps the judge believes the parties involved in a case do not want more attention drawn to their case, but if that’s what the judge thinks, then why not block any and all kinds of public access to the hearing?
This past election cycle I had the opportunity (along with every other voter) to vote to retain or dismiss judges from the bench. The difficult part was that I did not have a means to assess these judges except a grade given to them online by the government. And maybe I should just take government’s word for it, but it would make sense to allow a regular civilian like myself the opportunity to see the judge in action and then I can make my decision based on some more substantial evidence. Good decisions come, in part, from good information.
Additionally, if I knew I would be involved in court action in the future as a party or as a witness who would be required to appear in court to testify or help my lawyer argue my case, it certainly wouldn’t hurt me to have access to recordings of real court proceedings in the court I will be in myself, so that I can see what is in store for me before I get to court. I could be better prepared for my own day in front of the judge. One of the best things about the internet is the ability is gives one to disseminate information to a broad audience without prohibitive expense or effort. So why has my experience so far been with judges being very guarded (overly guarded, frankly) about who can view a given court procession today?
I do not have the answer to that question, but it is food for thought. I figure with time I will understand more, but as of right now I have to be satisfied with being less informed.
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