The Iowa Supreme Court is asking for public comments on a proposal that would update the rules that govern how the media cover court cases in the state. Court system spokesman Steve Davis says the recommendations come from a 15-member advisory committee that was assigned to review the new types of media being used by reporters to cover the courts. “Things like live electronic reporting — which is another way to say tweeting and blogging — the new technology they’re bringing into the courtroom that includes smartphones and laptops,” Davis explains.
Davis says the public is being asked to comment on the findings of the committee. “The committee recommended to the Supreme Court that blogging and tweeting be allowed — it’s called live electronic reporting — with advanced permission from the judicial officer,” Davis says. “So it would be like the rules now read for bringing cameras and video equipment into the courtroom. It would allow for tweeting and blogging if approved by the presiding judicial officer.”
Media organizations now file what’s called an expanded media request to be allowed to bring cameras, videocameras and microphones into the courtrooms to cover cases. Davis says one other proposed change would allow coverage of all preliminary court appearances in criminal cases. “In some parts of the state expanded media coverage is allowed during initial appearances, in other parts it’s not allowed. Some parts of the state use teleconferences for initial appearances and then make that tape available to the news media,” according to Davis “So, what is proposed here in the rule is a way to make consistent rules throughout the state.”
Davis says anyone interested has 60 days to submit comments to the court on the proposed rule changes. “After the comment period, the committee will meet again, review the comments, decide if there are any other changes to make and submit that to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court will then determine if they want to accept the changes,” Davis says.
He says the update is a natural progression for Iowa’s court system. “These rules were written in 1979, and at that time Iowa was a real leader in transparency and cameras in the courtroom. Courts have been able to keep up with technology with the existing rules for that entire time — but with the new technology now — the court thought it was time to review those rules and try and bring them in line with all the new technology used by members of the news media now,” Davis says.
You see the proposed rules and make comments by going to the Judicial Branch website at: www.iowacourts.gov.
You can also send written comments to:
Iowa Supreme Court
1111 East Court Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
Comments are due by January sixth.