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C. Tips for covering courts in the jurisdiction

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  • 10th Circuit

    The federal courts of appeals are the intermediate appellate courts between the district (trial) courts and the Supreme Court of the United States. The Tenth Circuit, and the other numbered circuits, provide appellate review of all cases tried in the district courts within the geographic area of their jurisdiction. The Tenth Circuit is made up of six states including Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. It also includes “those portions of the Yellowstone National Park extending into Montana and Idaho.” 2019 Practitioner’s Guide to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, available at https://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/clerk/2019PracGuideUpdateCorrected-3-12-2019.pdf.

    “To order necessary transcripts in the Tenth Circuit, parties must complete a Transcript Order Form approved by this court and distributed by the district clerk; must serve copies on the court reporter, the district clerk, and all other parties to the appeal, and file a copy in the court of appeals. The ordering party must make satisfactory arrangements with the court reporter for payment of the cost of the transcript. On completion of the transcript order, the court reporter must acknowledge its receipt, estimate the completion date and the number of pages in the completed transcript, and file a completed copy with this court and with the district clerk. 10th Cir. R. 10.2(B)(2).” 2019 Practitioner’s Guide to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, available at https://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/clerk/2019PracGuideUpdateCorrected-3-12-2019.pdf.

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  • 4th Circuit

    The Fourth Circuit is not afraid to decide the merits of a dispute over public access, but it will only do so after the district court has thoroughly considered the matter consistent with the procedural and substantive requirements identified in the case law.  If the district court has failed in either regard, the Fourth Circuit will usually remand the case for further consideration.  It is important, therefore, that a party seeking access consider proactive steps that might help ensure that the district court adheres in the first instance to the substantive and procedural requirements.

    Addressing access issues proactively also increases the likelihood of successfully obtaining access.  Judges appreciate being advised of access rights before making a decision on what they might otherwise perceive as a routine or noncontroversial request for closure.  Moreover, as a practical matter, convincing a judge not to do something is much easier than convincing the judge to undo something he/she has already done.

    A party seeking to attend the trial of a high profile matter and to access trial exhibits should contact the district court in advance to determine if any procedures have been adopted to facilitate public access, such as providing an extra room in the courthouse for overflow attendees to view the trial by closed-circuit video, and for timely release of trial exhibits.  A letter to the district court, copying counsel of record, should suffice for this initial inquiry.  The inquiry will often prompt the court to adopt procedures.  District courts have discretion over the extent to which they must accommodate public access at trial.

    The right of access is qualified, not absolute.  Therefore, third-parties are well-advised not to adopt a demanding or overbearing approach to access, but to request it in a civil and professional manner that avoids undue disruption and interference with the underlying proceeding.  Most federal district court judges in the Fourth Circuit understand and appreciate the value of public access.  However, no judge appreciates discourteous and disruptive behavior by third-party intervenors, and such behavior will foreclose the potential for accommodations not required to protect the public’s right of access.

    Conferring with the litigants before intervening is vital, as it may reveal a meritorious basis for closure not apparent from the record.  Additionally, to the extent an agreement can be reached, it will bolster arguments for access.

     

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  • 5th Circuit

    Each district court within the Fifth Circuit has court-specific rules. For example, the Northern District of Texas Civil Rule 83.18 specifies that no person “may photograph, electronically record, televise, or broadcast a judicial proceeding.”  Below are links to each of the district court’s local rules that contain court-specific guidelines:

    Louisiana
    Eastern Criminal http://www.laed.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/local_rules/LAEDLocalCriminalRules_3.pdf
    Eastern  Civil http://www.laed.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/local_rules/LAEDLocalCivilRules_4.pdf
    Middle https://www.lamd.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/2015%20LOCAL%20RULES.pdf
    Western https://www.lawd.uscourts.gov/sites/lawd/files/LocalRules.WDLA_.080818.ppm_.pdf
    Mississippi
    Northern Criminal http://www.msnd.uscourts.gov/sites/msnd/files/forms/2013_LOCAL_UNIFORM_CR_RULES_4-30-13.pdf
    Northern Civil http://www.msnd.uscourts.gov/sites/msnd/files/forms/2017MASTERCOPYCivil.pdf
    Southern Criminal http://www.mssd.uscourts.gov/sites/mssd/files/2013MASTERCOPYCRIMINAL_NEW.pdf
    Southern Civil https://www.msnd.uscourts.gov/sites/msnd/files/forms/2017MASTERCOPYCivil.pdf
    Texas
    Eastern http://www.txed.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/LocalRules.pdf
    Northern Criminal http://www.txnd.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/documents/CRIMRULES.pdf
    Northern Civil http://www.txnd.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/documents/CIVRULES.pdf
    Southern http://www.txs.uscourts.gov/sites/txs/files/dclclrl2014.pdf
    Western https://www.txwd.uscourts.gov/court-information/lcr-introduction/

     

    If the local rules do not address your concern, calling the chambers of a specific judge is often any easy way to get a question answered. Links to the main court pages or directories are below for easy navigation.

     

    Louisiana
    Eastern http://www.laed.uscourts.gov/court-information/court-directory
    Middle http://www.lamd.uscourts.gov/court-info/court-locations
    Western http://www.lawd.uscourts.gov/
    Mississippi
    Northern http://www.msnd.uscourts.gov/court-info/court-locations
    Southern http://www.mssd.uscourts.gov/
    Texas
    Eastern http://www.txed.uscourts.gov/?q=court-info
    Northern http://www.txnd.uscourts.gov/court-info
    Southern http://www.txs.uscourts.gov/district/district-judges-procedures-schedules
    Western https://www.txwd.uscourts.gov/judges-information/judges-directory-biographies/

    Ordering Transcripts: The chart below links to each court’s instructions on how to order transcripts.

    Louisiana
    Eastern http://www.laed.uscourts.gov/case-information/ordering-transcripts
    Middle http://www.lamd.uscourts.gov/local-forms/all-local-forms/transcript_forms
    Western http://www.lawd.uscourts.gov/court-reporters-transcripts
    Mississippi
    Northern http://www.msnd.uscourts.gov/forms/transcript-order-form
    Southern http://www.mssd.uscourts.gov/forms/transcript-order-form
    Texas
    Eastern http://www.txed.uscourts.gov/?q=requesting-transcripts
    Northern http://www.txnd.uscourts.gov/requesting-transcripts
    Southern http://www.txs.uscourts.gov/page/OrderingTranscripts
    Western http://coop.txwd.uscourts.gov/court-information/transcript-requests-and-fees/index.html

     

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  • 7th Circuit

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is based in Chicago and covers Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.  The Courthouse is located in the Dirksen Federal Building, 219 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, Illinois 60604. The Clerk’s telephone number is 312-435-5850.

    The Seventh Circuit’s website is located at http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov.  A Practitioner’s Handbook for Appeals is available on the Court’s website, along with the Circuit’s Rules, Operating Procedures and other useful information.

    The district courts in the Circuit each maintain a website, containing the current version of the Local Rules referenced above and relevant contact information. The Northern District of Illinois website includes a Media Information page, https://www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/Pages.aspx?jQpmSBHf3aiDZ+nRR7HF4Q, that contains contact information for court personnel; “professional media representatives” (i.e., those “employed by a recognized network, cable, or independent news organization”) can register online to get e-mail notifications when an entry is made in the Court's Electronic Case Filing System, and other media alerts and court announcements.  See also N.D. Ill. General Order 07-003 (Registration of Media Personnel Desiring Privileges and Accommodations in Any Courthouse of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois), https://www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/_assets/_documents/_forms/_media/GenOrder07-003.pdf.

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  • Alabama

    Structure of the court system

    District Courts, Probate Courts and Municipal Courts are courts of “limited jurisdiction.” Appeals from courts of limited jurisdiction go to Circuit Court for trial de novo. District Courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanors and Small Claims, concurrent jurisdiction with Circuit Courts in juvenile cases and civil matters between $3,000 and $10,000. District Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all civil matters not exceeding $3,000. Probate Courts have jurisdiction over wills, administration of estates, guardianship of minors and incompetents, partition of lands and name changes. Municipal Courts jurisdiction over violations of municipal ordinances where Municipal Court is maintained (otherwise these cases are tried in District Court).

    Circuit Courts are general jurisdiction trial courts in Alabama. Circuit Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all felonies, all civil actions exceeding $10,000, and all domestic relations cases. Circuit Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with District Court juvenile cases and all civil matters between $3,000 and $10,000.

    The Court of Civil Appeals has appellate jurisdiction over all civil appeals not exceeding $50,000, workers’ compensation, domestic relations, and certain civil appeals deflected from the Supreme Court of Alabama. The Court of Civil Appeals also has jurisdiction over all appeals from administrative agencies (excluding the Public Service Commission).

    The Court of Criminal Appeals has appellate jurisdiction over all criminal appeals, post-conviction writs and remedial writs for Criminal trial courts.

    The Supreme Court of Alabama is the highest state court and has appellate jurisdiction over all civil appeals exceeding $50,000, appeals from the Alabama Public Service Commission, and petitions for writ of certiorari from the Courts of Civil and Criminal Appeals.

    Contact information

    Contact information for all courts in Alabama is provided by the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts at http://www.alacourt.gov/default.aspx.

    Obtaining transcripts

    Transcripts may be obtained from the court reporter covering the proceedings. Costs are generally determined on a per page basis and are generally consistent with the fees charges for deposition transcripts.

    Tips on decorum

    While in the courtroom, cellphones and other electronic devices are generally required to be turned off or placed on “silent” so as not to disturb the proceedings. These rules often vary by circuit and by judge.

    Suggested resources

    Open Alabama can be found online at http://open.alabama.gov.

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  • Arizona

    If requesting camera coverage, one of the most essential procedural issues is to submit the request in a timely fashion.  A court may deny the request on this basis alone, and a media organization should ensure that any camera request is submitted within the timeframes mandated by the rules (e.g., “at least seven calendar dates before the trial date,” Ariz. R. Sup. Ct. 122 (c)(2)(A)).

    Camera crews and other media representatives present in the court should wear professional attire at all times.  Respect for the proceedings and general decorum are taken seriously.

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  • Arkansas

    Obtaining Access to Information Excluded from Public Access

    Even if information or records are excluded from public access, individuals and the press may be able to access them. Any requestor can make a verified written request to the court that has jurisdiction over the record. The request must show that: (1) reasonable circumstances exist that require deviation from the general protections in Administrative Order No. 19; (2) the public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm in disclosure; or (3) the information should not be excluded from public access under Section VII of Administrative Order No. 19.

    The person seeking access to the record must notify the parties or provide the court with the reason why notice could not or should not be given. The court must grant a request to allow access following a hearing on the request, if the requestor demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence one of the three requirements above. Ark. Sup. Ct. Admin. Order No. 19(VIII)(A).

    The Arkansas Judiciary site contains a judicial directory, which includes names and telephone numbers for state courts: https://www.arcourts.gov/sites/default/files/Judicial Directory.pdf

    Information about local and appellate courts can be found at: https://portal.arkansas.gov/agencies/?agency_category=Judicial

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  • Georgia

    The Georgia state court system has five classes of trial-level courts: the magistrate, probate, juvenile, state and superior courts. In addition, there are approximately 350 municipal courts operating locally. There are two appellate level courts: the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The Judicial Council of Georgia and its Administrative Office of the Courts provides useful information at www.georgiacourts.gov.

    Georgia courts are increasingly employing public information officers who are available to assist with media access and other issues. The Georgia Supreme Court’s is particularly effective, providing publicly accessible information about not only past but forthcoming decisions via the Court’s website at www.gasupreme.us. E.g., if an opinion is to issue on Monday, a list of the cases will be posted on Friday by 2:00 p.m. Summaries of noteworthy opinions are released contemporaneously with the opinions themselves.

    The Georgia First Amendment Foundation is dedicated to advancing open government in Georgia, including to the state’s courts, and makes resources available for this purpose at www.gfaf.org.

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  • Idaho

    Idaho has an active Idaho Press Club, which offers many insights and helpful hints on its website to members of the media and public.  See http://www.idahopressclub.org.  In addition, the judiciary has been proactive in dealing with the media through the Idaho Supreme Court’s Media and Courts Committee (http://www.isc.idaho.gov/main/judicial-committees), the Media and Court Conflicts Resolution Panel (aka “Fire-Brigade”) (http://www.isc.idaho.gov/files/Media_Guide-REVISION-DRAFT-10-28-13.pdf at 25) and by publishing a Media Guide to the Idaho Courts.  Id.   All of these are good resources to turn to when questions about covering Idaho’s courts arise.

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  • Indiana

    Structure of the Court System. The Indiana court system is comprised of superior and circuit courts, the Court of Appeals, and the Indiana Supreme Court. The Indiana court system also includes the Tax Court, small claims courts, traffic courts, commercial courts, and juvenile courts, among others. 

    Contact Information for Courts in Indiana. The Director of Courts and Clerks in Indiana can be found here: https://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/court-directory.pdf.

    Obtaining Transcripts. To request a transcript, submit an Access to Public Records Request or contact your local court. A sample letter is available online: https://www.in.gov/pac/files/sample_records_request_letter.pdf. Additionally, Indiana Courts provide specific contacts for the media: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/2802.htm. 

    Covering High-Profile Cases in Indiana. When covering high profile cases, the media is advised to request access early to cover the case with cameras in the courtroom. The “Cameras in the Courtroom” guide suggests that any photographer wishing to cover a Supreme Court argument contact the Court approximately 40 hours before the scheduled time. See https://www.in.gov/judiciary/2721.htm.

    Tips on Decorum in Indiana Courts. Always show the judge and the court staff respect, refraining from interrupting and respecting the court’s particular procedures. Be on time and wear professional attire.

    Suggested Resources on Indiana Courts.

     

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  • Kansas

    For an overview of the Kansas judicial system, see Kansas Courts on the state Judicial Branch’s website, at: http://www.kscourts.org/kansas-courts/general-information/default.asp.  A chart, Kansas Court System, sets forth the structure and jurisdiction of the courts and may be found at http://www.kscourts.org/pdf/ctchart.pdf.

    Contact information for Kansas district courts is available at http://www.kscourts.org/kansas-courts/general-information/contacts.asp.  Guidance for contacting municipal courts is at http://www.kscourts.org/kansas-courts/municipal-courts/default.asp.

    Guidelines for requesting transcripts, cases files and other court records at http://www.kscourts.org/rules-procedures-forms/open-records-procedures/default.asp.

    Procedures for coverage of high-profile cases historically have been set up on an ad hoc basis, with no set protocol, according to Ron Keefover, former Kansas Judicial Branch information-education officer.  Information about arrangements for coverage of a case may be requested from either or both of the following:

    Lisa Taylor, Public Information Director
    301 SW 10th Avenue, Room 337
    Topeka, Kansas 66612-1507
    Phone: (785) 296-4872
    Fax: (785) 296-7076
    Email: info@kscourts.org

    Office of Judicial Administration
    301 SW 10th Avenue, Room 337
    Topeka, Kansas 66612-1507
    Phone: (785) 296-2256
    Fax: (785) 296-7076
    Email: info@kscourts.org

    When in courtrooms to cover proceedings, members of the media must comply with Kansas Supreme Court Rule 1001, Media Coverage of Judicial Proceedings, http://www.kscourts.org/rules/Media_Coverage/Rule%201001.pdf.  The rule requires that, when in a courtroom, members of the media have permission from the judge to use electronic devices such as laptops while covering proceedings.

    In courtrooms, according to Rule 1001, judges are responsible for the “integrity” of proceedings,” and they maintain control over all activities in the courtroom and to some extent outside of it.  In sections (c)(1) and (2), Rule 1001 generally allows persons in the courtroom to possess laptops, cellphones and other devices, as long as they are turned off and put away out of sight.  Possession of the devices is a qualified privilege, though.  Under section (e)(3), a judge is authorized to disallow possession by any observer during a proceeding.  Moreover, persons are prohibited from activating and using the devices unless specifically permitted by the judge under sections (e)(1) and (2).  Section (d)(2) provides for confiscation of a device that is used in a courtroom without permission.  Also see Kan. Sup. Ct. R. 161, Courtroom Decorum, http://www.kscourts.org/rules/District_Rules/Rule%20161.pdf, which appears in Rules Adopted by the Supreme Court/Rules Relating to District Courts. http://www.kscourts.org/rules/District_Court.asp.

    A primary source of information about Kansas courts is the state’s Judicial Branch website, http://www.kscourts.org.  The website includes the following resources:

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  • Mississippi

    The Mississippi Supreme Court is the state court of last resort. Decisions of the Chancery, Circuit and County Courts and of the Court of Appeals may be appealed to the Supreme Court. Appeals which go directly to the Supreme Court include annexations, bond issues, constitutionality challenges, death penalty cases, disciplinary matters involving attorneys and judges, election contests, certified questions from federal court, utility rates, cases of first impression and issues of broad public interest.

    The Court of Appeals hears cases assigned by the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals hears and decides appeals on issues in which the law is already settled, but the facts are in dispute. The Supreme Court may review Court of Appeals decisions. Otherwise, the Court of Appeals decision stands.

    Circuit Courts hear felony criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits. Circuit Courts hear appeals from County, Justice and Municipal courts and from administrative boards and commissions such as the Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

    Chancery Courts handle disputes in matters involving equity; domestic matters including adoptions, custody disputes and divorces; guardianships; sanity hearings; wills; and challenges to constitutionality of state laws. Land records are filed in Chancery Court. Chancery Courts have jurisdiction over juvenile matters in counties that have no County Court.

    County Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over eminent domain proceedings and juvenile matters, among other things. In counties that have a County Court, a County Court judge also serves as the Youth Court judge. County Courts share jurisdiction with Circuit and Chancery Courts in some civil matters. The jurisdictional limit of County Courts is up to $200,000. County Courts may handle non-capital felony cases transferred from Circuit Court. County Court judges may issue search warrants, set bond and preside over preliminary hearings. County Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with Justice Courts in all matters, civil and criminal.

    Justice Courts handle small claims civil cases involving amounts of $3,500 or less, misdemeanor criminal cases and any traffic offense that occurs outside a municipality. Judges may conduct bond hearings and preliminary hearings in felony criminal cases and may issue search warrants.

    Drug Courts handle crimes committed by those addicted to drugs or alcohol. These special courts seek to rehabilitate drug-using offenders through drug treatment and intense supervision with drug testing and frequent court appearances.

    Municipal courts handle misdemeanor crimes, municipal ordinances and city traffic violations. Judges may conduct initial appearances in which defendants are advised of the charges being filed, as well as bond hearings and preliminary hearings.

    Youth courts handle cases involving offenses committed by juveniles (those younger than 18) as well cases involving the abuse and neglect of juveniles. In the 20 counties that have a County Court, those judges also serve as Youth Court judges. In counties without a County Court, the Chancery Judge may hear Youth Court matters, or the Chancery Judge may appoint a lawyer to act as Youth Court Referee. Youth court records and proceedings are generally not open to the public.

    Supreme Court Justices and Administration: (601) 359-3697

    Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Clerk’s Office: (601) 359-3694

    Court of Appeals Judges: (601) 576-4665

    Circuit Courts and lower state court information is available from their individual websites.

    Written transcripts for oral arguments are not available through the clerk’s office, but audio recordings are available on CD. The recordings cost $25 and can be purchased at the clerk’s office or by mailing a request the case number and date the case was argued along with payment to the clerk’s office.

    Oral arguments before the Mississippi Supreme Court can be watched live on the courts website or can be watched later at http://judicial.mc.edu/vidbrief.php, a service provided by the Mississippi College Law School.

    The court system does not provide information on decorum.

    A media Frequently Asked Questions website can be found at: https://courts.ms.gov/records/media.php

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  • Nevada

    It is suggested that in addition to following the requirements of the Nevada Supreme Court’s Rules on Electronic Coverage of Court Proceedings (S.C.R. 229-246), reporters check with posted court department guidelines regarding protocol and other preferences and requirements specific to each judge. This information can generally be obtained by visiting the judges page on district courts’ websites.

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  • New Mexico

    The New Mexico court system is structured as follows:

    (1) Probate court:        comprises thirty-three judges for each of the thirty-three counties and possess limited jurisdiction to hear uncontested informal probate and estate cases. In probate court there are no jury trials, and any contested cases go to the district court.

    (2) Municipal Court:   comprises eighty-three judges for eighty-one municipal courts, which are courts of limited jurisdiction. Municipal courts will hear petty misdemeanors, DWI/DUI CASES, traffic violations, and other municipal ordinance violations. There are no jury trials.

    (3) Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court: comprises nineteen judges who hear cases involving torts, contracts, landlord/tenant rights ($0-10,000), felony first appearances, misdemeanors, DWI/DUIs, domestic violence, and other traffic violations. Jury trials are heard.

    (4) Magistrate Court:  Sixty-seven judges preside over fifty-four magistrate courts. These are courts of limited jurisdiction in which jury trials are heard. Magistrate courts hear cases sounding in torts, contracts, landlord/tenant rights ($0-10,000), felony preliminary hearings, misdemeanors, DWI/DUIs and other traffic violations.

    (5) District Court:       Ninety-four judges preside over thirteen districts. These are courts of general jurisdiction which hold jury trials for torts, contracts, real property rights, estates, and misdemeanors. The court possesses exclusive jurisdiction over domestic relations, mental health, appeals for administrative agencies and lower courts in addition to criminal appeals and juvenile matters.

    (6) Court of Appeals: Ten judges preside, sitting in panels of three. The court has offices in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The court has mandatory jurisdiction in civil, non-capital criminal, and juvenile cases and discretionary jurisdiction in interlocutory decision cases and administrative agency appeals.

    (7) Supreme Court: comprises five Justices and is located in Santa Fe. This is the court of last resort and has superintending control over all inferior courts and attorneys licensed in the state. The Supreme Court exercises mandatory appellate jurisdiction over criminal matters in which the sentence imposed is life in prison or the death penalty, appeals from the Public Regulation Commission, appeals from the granting of writs of habeas corpus, appeals in actions challenging nominations, and removal of public officials. The court exercises discretionary jurisdiction over denials of petitions for writ of habeas corpus, petitions for writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals, other extraordinary writ matters, and certified questions either from the Court of Appeals or federal courts.

    Contact information for the courts in this jurisdiction is as follows:

    New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts

    The State of New Mexico

    237 Don Gaspar, Santa Fe, NM 87501

    To obtain a transcript of a court proceeding, arrangements should be made with the court reporter present at the hearing. To obtain a transcript of an audio recorded hearing, contact a certified transcriber/transcription service or court reporter and provide the following information: case number, case caption, hearing judge, hearing date, type of hearing, courtroom, and deadline. Requesters may contact any certified transcription service or court reporter for this purpose. To obtain a copy of a digital file for a purpose other than creation of the official transcript, contact the Clerk's Office at 505-348-2020. The cost is $26 regardless of the medium. CJA attorneys and government agencies may obtain tapes or CDs at no cost. Information regarding transcripts of hearing transcribed by a court reporter can be obtained by calling the court reporter directly, or by calling the Court Reporter Coordinator, at 505-348-2056. Information regarding the digital audio recorded transcripts or the court file can be obtained by calling the Clerk's Office at 505-348-2020.

    On February 20, 2017, the New Mexico Supreme Court adopted rules governing access to digitized court records. The SOPA (Secured Odyssey Public Access) system addresses who may access court records, how to access court records, and documents and proceedings that are not public. The new rules and procedures raise a number of First Amendment and open records issues, but they have not been tested. New Mexico Supreme Court Rule 17-8500-001, February 20, 2017.

    Caution should be exercised in the coverage of high-profile cases within the jurisdiction. Too much press coverage could lead to a change in venue if a New Mexico court is led to believe that it is impossible to select a constitutionally impartial jury. State v. McGuire, 1990-NMSC-067, ¶ 22, 110 N.M. 304, 311, 795 P.2d 996, 1003. Compare Times-Picayune Pub. Corp. v. Schulingkamp, 419 U.S. 1301 (1974) (finding that although there was a heavy presumption against the restriction of media coverage’s constitutional validity, reporters’ rights must be balanced against a defendant's right to a fair trial before an impartial jury.), with State v. Barrera, 2001-NMSC-014, ¶ 18, 130 N.M. 227, 233, 22 P.3d 1177, 1183 (holding that “[e]xposure of venire members to publicity about case, by itself, does not establish prejudice or create a presumption of prejudice for purposes of determining whether change of venue is required.”). Ultimately, however, “[t]here may be prejudice as a result of media coverage, but only in extreme cases such as when a community is saturated with inflammatory and biased information near the time of trial.” State v. Courtney, No. 28,300, 2009 WL 6670339, at *1 (N.M. Ct. App. May 28, 2009) (citing State v. House, 1999–NMSC–014, ¶ 58, 127 N.M. 151, 978 P.2d 967) (upholding lower court’s finding of no prejudice when jury panel had been questioned regarding media coverage and defendant failed to provide concrete details of alleged prejudice).

    In determining whether mid-trial publicity is inherently prejudicial to a criminal defendant, the trial court should determine the likelihood of juror exposure by looking at (1) prominence of publicity, including frequency of coverage, conspicuousness of story in newspaper, and profile of media source in local community, and (2) nature and likely effectiveness of trial judge's previous instructions on matter, including frequency of instruction to avoid outside materials, and time lapse between trial court's last instruction and publication of prejudicial material. State v. Holly, 2009-NMSC-004, ¶ 20, 145 N.M. 513, 518, 201 P.3d 844, 849.

    The purpose of judicial proceedings is to ascertain the truth. Such proceedings should be conducted with fitting dignity and decorum, in a manner conducive to undisturbed deliberation, indicative of their importance to the people and to the litigants, and in an atmosphere that bespeaks the responsibilities of those who are charged with the administration of justice.  Rule 1-090 NMRA. Courtroom and Courthouse Decorum requires that no cameras, cellular telephones with cameras, transmitters, receivers or recording equipment may be brought into or used in any courtroom or court environs. Environs include: the entire floor where a courtroom is located, the entire floor where the grand jury meets, and the entire floor where a chamber of any Magistrate Judge or District Judge is located. The prohibitions of this rule do not apply to a stenographic or recording device used by an official court reporter or other authorized court personnel, equipment brought into court during investiture, ceremonial or naturalization proceedings, a telephone or pager turned off while Court is in session, a lap-top computer as long as it does not make noise or interfere with court proceedings and is not used to record or transmit court proceedings, a note-taking or other device required because of a person's disability, a device to be used solely for the presentation of evidence, or attorneys and jurors with cellular telephones with cameras.

    Pursuant to Rule 23-108 NMRA, “the supreme court and the district court libraries of the State of New Mexico shall be open to the public on regular court business days. Individual courts may by rule limit public access to their libraries, provided such rules adequately ensure that the public is not denied access to the law.” Id.

    One of the best law libraries in the state is located at the University of New Mexico School of Law, 1117 Stanford, NE., Albuquerque, NM. It is open to the public. Resource librarians at law libraries can direct you to the books and publications you need to consult for your particular case. The Local Rules of the United States District Court, District of New Mexico are supplemental to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A copy is available upon request from the Clerk's office and through the court's website. Although supplemental to the Federal Rules, the Local Rules are nonetheless very important. The Internet is also a vast resource of information. The District Court's home page's Legal Links lists a sample of legal sites that might be useful.

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  • Pennsylvania

    Structure of Court System

    The Courts of Commons Pleas are the main trial courts of Pennsylvania for both civil and criminal cases. They are organized into 60 judicial districts, most of which follow the geographic boundaries of Pennsylvania’s counties. Beneath the Court of Common Pleas are “minor courts,” which preside over a limited category of proceedings, including civil cases where the amount-in-controversy is $12,000 or less.

    The Superior Court is a court of general appellate jurisdiction.

    The Commonwealth Court only will preside over appeals from state agency decisions and certain cases in which the Commonwealth or another government unit is a party. The Commonwealth Court also has original jurisdiction over certain, specific matters.

    Pennsylvania’s highest court is its Supreme Court. It hears appeals from both the Superior Court and the Commonwealth Court. It also has original jurisdiction in a limited area of matters.

    Contact Info

    The Office of Communications and Intergovernmental Relations of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (“AOPC”) fields inquiries from reporters as part of its duties as media liaison. See Office of Communications and Intergovernmental Relations, The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, http://www.pacourts.us/judicial-administration/office-of-communications-and-intergovernmental-relations (last visited July 18, 2018). In high-profile criminal trials, the AOPC has worked with local courts on issues relating to media coverage. In all cases, however, the court itself makes decisions on access issues.

    Online Resource for Case Information

    Dockets for matters pending in the Superior Court, Commonwealth Court, and Supreme Court may be accessed online at the web portal for The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania: https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/Appellate.aspx (last visited June 10, 2018).

    Criminal case dockets for the Courts of Common Pleas can also be accessed at the web portal: https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/CP.aspx (last visited June 10, 2018).

    Many counties also make their Court of Common Pleas dockets for civil cases electronically available.

    Decorum Orders in High-Profile Trials

    In high-profile criminal trials, courts routinely implement decorum orders governing the conduct of the case and press access to the proceedings. When covering such a trial, it is advisable to inquire with the court whether such a decorum order is in place. Courts in some counties will post relevant decorum order information online.

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  • Wisconsin

    Each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties has its own circuit or trial court with at least one judge. Wis. Stat. § 753.06; see Wis. Stat. § 753.03:

    The circuit courts have power to hear and determine, within their respective circuits, all civil and criminal actions and proceedings unless exclusive jurisdiction is given to some other court; and they have all the powers, according to the usage of courts of law and equity, necessary to the full and complete jurisdiction of the causes and parties and the full and complete administration of justice, and to carry into effect their judgments, orders and other determinations, subject to review by the court of appeals or the supreme court as provided by law.

    Wisconsin has a single, unified court of appeals with four geographic districts.  Wis. Stat. § 752.11; see Wis. Stat. § 752.31(1) (“Except as otherwise provided in this action, the court of appeals shall sit in panels of three judges to dispose of cases on their merits.”); see also Wis. Stat. § 808.03:

    (1) APPEALS AS OF RIGHT. A final judgment or a final order of a circuit court may be appealed as a matter of right to the court of appeals unless otherwise expressly provided by law. A final judgment or final order is a judgment, order or disposition that disposes of the entire matter in litigation as to one or more parties, whether rendered in an action or special proceeding ….

    (2) APPEALS BY PERMISSION. A judgment or order not appealable as a matter or right under sub. (1) may be appealed to the court of appeals in advance of a final judgment or order upon leave granted by the court ….

    Wisconsin has a single supreme court with seven justices. Wis. Const. art VII, § 4; see Wis. Stat. § 808.10(1): "A decision of the court of appeals is reviewable by the supreme court only upon a petition for review granted by the supreme court."

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court also may hear original actions, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 809.70, though it is exceptionally rare. Finally, the supreme court may directly review the judgment or order of a trial court either when the court of appeals certifies the appeal to the supreme court, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 809.61, or when a party petitions to bypass the court of appeals, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 809.60.

    All Wisconsin judges are elected in Spring, non‑partisan elections.  If a judge at any level retires or passes away during her term, the Governor has the right to appoint a new judge until there is time for an election.

    The Director of State Courts is the administrative head of the Wisconsin court system.  His offices are in Madison, in the same suite as the administrative staff for the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.  He can be reached at (608) 266‑6820.  The website for Wisconsin’s courts is www.wicourts.gov. The dockets for all Wisconsin state court cases are available at wcca.wicourts.gov.  Only participants in the actions can see pleadings on that site. Members of the news media and the public may request copies of pleadings from the clerk of the specific court where the case is venued.  Transcripts of proceedings are available for a fee from each judge’s court reporter.

     

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