Federal appeals court wouldn't let sketch artist draw

Jason Wiederin | Newsgathering | Quicklink | December 3, 2008

 A local sketch artist was told last week he could not draw in a Washington, D.C., courtroom during oral arguments in a Guantánamo Bay detainee case, according to Legal Times.  

The newspaper said the panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals (D.C. Cir.) gave no explanation for the apparent ban on drawing; a clerk simply told artist Bill Hennessy before arguments began that no sketching would be allowed that day. Hennessy has illustrated court scenes for almost 30 years and told Legal Times he assumed the ban was meant to keep his bulky drawing materials out of the packed courtroom. He took notes in a small notebook and later recreated the scene from memory. Fox aired one of Hennessy's drawings.

The next day, the court’s chief deputy clerk, Marilyn Sargent, called Hennessy to condemn the sketch, Legal Times reported.   “I was baffled. I didn’t get it,” Hennessy told the newspaper. “That starts to weigh into the right of free expression.”

Chief Judge David Sentelle reportedly said the panel judges decide whether to allow sketch artists into court.