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Open & Shut

From the Spring 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 64.

From the Spring 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 64.

A collection of recent funny, fascinating, nonsensical or just notable newsworthy quotations.

“We are in a culture that’s obsessed by celebrities. We don’t think we should become people that are regularly on television because it distorts the meaning of our work.”

— Justice Anthony Kennedy, testifying before a House subcommittee on March 29 to present the court’s proposed budget, when asked about allowing cameras in the Supreme Court. (Associated Press, March 29, 2001)

“I think that, in the first place, we are not interested in becoming media personalities. We kind of value what anonymity we have. And secondly, the extent to which any televised proceedings would be shown is obviously not going to convey the whole depth of the proceeding. I mean, we are engaged in very serious work. We are deciding whether, you know, a particular issue is going to be decided one way or the other. And we are doing it in a courtroom that is full of lawyers, full of spectators. And an exchange between a justice and a lawyer simply doesn’t convey that idea at all. And I think also in some jurisdictions where they have tried televising, there’s a feeling that it affects the way at least the lawyers behave. And I suspect it may affect the way judges behave, too.”

— Chief Justice William Rehnquist in an Feb. 16 interview with Charlie Rose on PBS, on televising court proceedings.

“That option flies in the face of the constitutional guarantee of a public trial and is clearly not an alternative this court is willing to entertain.”

— Judge Richard Baumgarter of Knox County (Tenn.) Criminal Court wrote on March 16 in denying a defendant’s motion to prohibit cameras from a murder trail.

“I would ask that the news media not become Timothy McVeigh’s co-conspirator in his assault on America’s public safety and upon America itself.”

— Attorney General John Ashcroft, announcing April 12 that limits would be placed on McVeigh’s ability to talk to the press, and that a closed-circuit broadcast of McVeigh’s execution would be available for victims and families.

“Our attorney told me, ‘If the police want it and get a subpoena, they’ll win and we’ll have to copy it and hand it over.’ So we decided to save everybody a lot of time. We asked what the police wanted and narrowed it down to maybe five minutes focusing on a specific time frame.”

— KCPQ-TV (Seattle) News Director Todd Mokhtari said after acquiescing to subpoenas for video footage of rioters during a Mardi Gras celebration in February 2001, as quoted in The Seattle Times, March 9, 2001.

“It was going to be an e-mail relationship, but now that presidential e-mail is subject to open records it’s going to be a phone call relationship.”

— President George W. Bush, during an interview with The Associated Press before his inauguration. The president was asked to describe the role his father will have as the son assumes the office of the president.

“I think more and more of the most important decisions happen behind closed doors. The public is never involved.”

— Minnesota state Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville), who failed to get a second senator to vote to authorize a roll call vote on a bill to open Senate Democratic Farmer-Labor party caucus meetings.

“To put it more plainly, we believe that such an official government inquiry into essentially editorial matters is inconsistent with the First Amendment values that are fundamental to our society.”

— Louis Boccardi, president of The Associated Press, before the House Committee of Energy and Commerce on Feb. 14 during its hearing on the television networks’ coverage of the 2000 election night.

“I’m not subscribing bad motive to the Sentinel. But the more people that are in there, the more the privilege is broken, the more opportunity there is for all these perverts and queers and renegades to put that on the Internet.”

— Thom Rumberger, the attorney for Teresa Earnhardt in her efforts to close off access to autopsy records of her husband, Dale Earnhardt.

“We do not subscribe to the obscurantist notion that justice, like wild mushrooms, thrives on manure in the dark.”

— Justice Thomas Crosby Jr. of the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Santa Ana, Calif., in a March 6 opinion that upheld the right to a public hearing in a case involving attorney-client privilege.

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Defining the Terms

An occassional collection of terms that have been pivotal to the outcome of libel cases:

goon (goon) n. 1. someone hired to terrorize or eliminate opponents. Physically blocked by an aide from talking to county commissioner Al Valdez, KOAT-TV reporter Larry Barker asked the commissioner to “call off your goon.” 2. “An absolutely horrible name.” — Commissioner Valdez. 3. “Simply name calling, and thus, not defamatory.” — New Mexico Court of Appeals, in dismissing bodyguard’s libel claim in Maldonado v. Barker (March 12, 2001).

stiffed (stifd) v. tr., p.t. 1. refused to pay. 2. Not necessarily an allegation of a criminal act; in the context of a critical article, indicates the author’s objection to a company’s financial practice. — Wilkow v. Forbes, Inc., 241 F.3d 552 (7th Cir. 2001).