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Judge apologizes for media exclusion from lawmaker's arraignment

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    NMU         PENNSYLVANIA    

    NMU         PENNSYLVANIA         Secret Courts         Mar 28, 2000    

Judge apologizes for media exclusion from lawmaker’s arraignment

  • A county judge told members of the media that their exclusion from an arraignment in a in a traffic accident death case was “totally without justification.”

The presiding judge of a county court has stated that he concurred with concerns expressed by media organizations that they had been barred from attending the arraignment of a state lawmaker on murder charges.

Harrisburg Judge Joseph H. Kleinfelter said in a letter dated March 17 that the arraignment for state Rep. Thomas W. Druce (R) should have been open to the public under the First Amendment. The proceeding concerned Druce’s role in an automobile accident that killed a Harrisburg man.

“The press should have free and unfettered access to all public proceedings in our courts,” the judge wrote. “The exclusion of the press from arraignment court yesterday was totally without justification. . . There is no court policy barring the press from any courtroom or public hearing. I certainly gave no order that could be construed as authorizing any such exclusion at yesterday’s arraignment. . . To the extent that the court bears any responsibility for yesterday’s mishap, you have my sincere apology.”

According to the Associated Press, reporters attempting to cover the arraignment were told by sheriff’s deputies that the proceeding was closed to the public. In response, John Kirkpatrick, editor and publisher of The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, prepared a letter on behalf of several media organizations and sent it to Kleinfelter, according to the AP.

(Pennsylvania v. Druce)

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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