Judge bars media interviews in courthouse hallways and lobbies
ARIZONA–In early May, a federal judge in Phoenix who is presiding over the criminal trial of a former state official restricted reporters from interviewing trial participants in the hallways, lobbies or elevators of the courthouse. The judge suggested that they conduct interviews outside the courthouse or utilize a pressroom set up to accommodate reporters covering the trial of Gov. Fife Symington which is taking place in the same courthouse.
Federal District Court Judge Earl Carroll imposed the restriction after the attorney who is defending former gubernatorial aide George Leckie against bid-rigging charges complained that a sitting juror overheard a former juror being interviewed in the hallway outside of Carroll’s courtroom.
Counsel for The Arizona Republic asked the court to consider less restrictive alternatives, such as permitting reporters to conduct interviews in the courthouse as long as jurors were not present. He also requested that a written copy of Carroll’s oral order be posted outside the courtroom to notify reporters who were not present when the ruling was made. Carroll said he would take the request under advisement.
In other rulings prompted by media challenges, Carroll released transcripts of a jury disqualification hearing that was closed to reporters, as well as redacted juror questionnaires.
Still pending is a media request for access to the sworn statement of a co-defendant who died shortly after being indicted, which the government filed under seal almost a year ago. In early May, Carroll ruled that the statement was inadmissible as evidence.
In addition, Carroll directed a courtroom observer to stop using a laptop computer, saying that such equipment is not permitted in the building and that he did not want to set a precedent for the Symington trial. The judge presiding over Symington’s trial has denied media requests for permission to use laptops in the courtroom. (U.S. v. Leckie; Media Counsel: David Bodney, Phoenix)