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Chief Justice's request for expanded media access to trial denied

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Chief Justice’s request for expanded media access to trial denied

  • Chief Justice Roy S. Moore, who this summer failed to uphold a court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments, sought but was denied a larger venue and more media and camera access for his judicial conduct trial.

Nov. 6, 2003 — Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore says he wants full media coverage of his Nov. 12 judicial conduct trial, and filed a motion on Oct. 14 requesting a larger venue to accommodate the public. Anything less, his lawyers told the court, “would deny the defendant . . . a constitutionally mandated public trial, in addition to frustrating the will of the people to see truth unfold.”

Moore is on trial for ignoring a December 2002 Alabama district court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Court building by Aug. 20, 2003. Moore is currently on suspension, and if found guilty could be removed from the bench.

Moore’s request for additional media access and public seating was denied by the Court of the Judiciary, which will be conducting his trial. John Wilkerson, the court’s secretary, declined to comment on the reasons why.

Cameras are currently allowed in Alabama courtrooms on a case-by-case basis. In this case, the court said only its final judgment can be broadcast and photographed by the media.

Jessica Atteberry, a spokesperson for Moore, said the chief justice is puzzled by the court’s lack of an explanation.

“What do they have to hide?” she asked. “It’s usually the defendant that has a problem with [media] because they don’t want it to affect a jury. There’s no jury here.”

The Judiciary Court — presided over by Chief Judge William C. Thompson — announced Oct. 29 that Moore’s trial will be held in the Alabama Supreme Court’s judiciary building, and will be open to the public. Moore’s attorneys say that is not enough.

“It’s public in a very restricted sense,” said Michael E. Jones, one of Moore’s lawyers. Jones also said that he was surprised that the media have not taken a harder look at this since they are the ones being kept out of the courtroom.

The courtroom seats 200 people, but Jones says the room falls “far short of the hundreds of thousands of people that voted . . . to elect him.”

The Alabama Supreme Court justices, including eight associate justices and the chief justice, are elected to six-year terms by voters.

(Court of the Judiciary, Case No. 33) AS

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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