Judge strikes down special rules limiting cameras in Detroit courtroom
MICHIGAN — The Wayne County chief circuit judge in early October struck down a district court judge’s special rules prohibiting cameras in his courtroom after a two-year legal battle with the Detroit Free Press, according to that paper.
Thirty-sixth District Judge David Bradfield has routinely banned photographers from his courtroom, although the state of Michigan has allowed cameras in courts since March 1989. Bradfield only allows one camera, video or still, and it must be placed in the rear of the courtroom and use only a wide-angle lens. Pictures of the judge and his staff are forbidden.
Bradfield requires that photographers give him three days’ notice that they intend to use a camera, yet he would not divulge the cases on his docket more than a day in advance, according to the Michigan Press Association Bulletin.
In October 1992, Chief Circuit Judge Richard Kaufman ordered Bradfield to follow state Supreme Court rules allowing video and still cameras to cover court proceedings, after the Detroit Free Press complained about the judge’s limitations on photographers. However, according to the Free Press, Bradfield continued to exclude Free Press photographers from his courtroom.
The Free Press quoted Kaufman as saying Bradfield’s continuing restrictions on photographers violated both his 1992 order and the Supreme Court’s order opening courtrooms in 1989.
Bradfield did not appear at his first hearing with Judge Kaufman scheduled for Sept. 8. Free Press attorney Herschel Fink threatened that if Bradfield did not appear for the rescheduled hearing, Fink would have the judge subpoenaed. Fink also asked Kaufman to fine Bradfield $5,000 every time the judge disobeyed the order, according to the Michigan Press Association Bulletin.
Bradfield argued that cameras are intrusive and the Supreme Court order gave him authority to limit camera coverage. According to the Free Press, Bradfield intends to appeal Kaufman’s ruling.
(In re Detroit Free Press; Media Counsel: Herschel Fink, Detroit)