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Michigan Judges stop live blogging from their courtrooms

December 14, 2013

The Ann Arbor News’ Kyle Feldscher (@kylefeldscher) reports that for the second time in a month, a Washtenaw County, Michigan district court judge has shut down live blogging during a court hearing.

On Friday, Judge Joseph Burke ordered ordered that multiple live blogs be stopped, including those of The Ann Arbor News and the Detroit Free Press.

The basis for the court’s decision was that live blogs would allow witnesses slated to testify during the hearing to ‘hear’ testimony and arguments from outside the courtroom.

On Nov. 15, Judge Kirk Tabbey granted a motion of the Prosecutor’s Office to shut the Ann Arbor News’ live blog. The reasoning was the safety of the witnesses.

Live blogging from courtrooms, per Feldscher, is a standard practice for a number media organizations around Michigan.

The press has the right to cover court proceedings, but it is not an absolute right. Judges can restrict coverage on a case-by-case when there is a substantial probability of a danger to someone or a legitimate public interest.

Keeping witnesses out of the courtroom before testifying is something occasionally granted by courts. With a smartphone and live blogging, a witness would have live reporting of all said in the courtroom.

Live blogging in courts, whether by traditional media or others, is a right that ought to be upheld by American courts. The speed of news dissemination and the fact that a blogger is not a news media reporter should not impact the right to live blog. Live blogging ought only be limited in the case of a legitimate public interest.

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