Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 40

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 40: Recording family law hearings

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant

My time as a legal assistant to a divorce and family law attorney in Utah has shown me a side of the legal system that has broken some ideals I had before starting the job. I liked to believe that all judges were wise people and that they always had the public’s best interest at heart. I am not implying that all judges are wholly corrupt, but prejudice and mediocrity is a more common occurrence than I believed and hoped.

One example of the mediocrity I am speaking of has been how most judges across the state of Utah treat the YouTube channel Utah Family Law TV (UFLTV). UFLTV is a YouTube channel my boss runs in his spare time. He does not profit from it, nor does he use it as a tool for promoting his legal practice. It is merely a channel he runs to help those who are going through divorce and other domestic relations cases educate themselves about the workings of the legal system by broadcasting the public proceedings of Utah domestic relations cases, like divorce and child custody disputes. These hearings and trials are open to the public. There is no law that prohibits these proceedings from being broadcast to the public. In fact, Utah’s court system proudly announced, about 8 years ago, a rule to make public court proceedings more open and accessible to the public by—purportedly—making them more open and accessible to the news media. While the rules allow a court to deny access to some public hearings under certain circumstances, more often than not UFLTV is denied access for no good reason. For instance, UFLTV coverage requests are routinely denied because the judge or commissioner merely believes UFLTV not to be a legitimate news reporter, yet these same judges refuse to give UFLTV any opportunity to provide evidence that it is clearly a news reporter as that term is defined in the rule.

Situations like this (and others) lead me to conclude that either the judges and commissioners don’t understand—or don’t care to understand—the very rules they are sworn and employed to obey or they simply want to prevent media coverage of public domestic relations proceedings, so they twist the facts and the rules to reach the desired outcome. You don’t need to be a lawyer to see that the so-called “reasons” given for denying UFLTV media coverage requests just don’t hold factual or legal water.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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