News Media and the Court

 Statement of Principles
 Guidelines For Disclosure and Reporting of Information on Criminal Proceedings
 Uniform Trial Court Rule on Cameras in Courtroom


Statement of Principles

These guidelines are currently recognized by attorneys and judges in Oregon.

Oregon's Bill of Rights provides both for fair trials and for freedom of the press. These rights are basic and unqualified. They are not ends in themselves but are necessary guarantors of freedom for the individual and the public's rights to be informed. The necessity of preserving both the right to fair trial and the freedom to disseminate the news is of concern to responsible members of the legal and journalistic professions and is of equal concern to the public. At times these two rights appear to be in conflict with each other.

In an effort to mitigate this conflict, the Oregon State Bar, the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and the Oregon Association of Broadcasters have adopted the following statement of principles to keep the public fully informed without violating the rights of any individual.

  1. The news media have the right and the responsibility to print and to broadcast the truth.
  2. However, the demands of accuracy and objectivity in news reporting should be balanced with the demands of fair play. The public has a right to be informed. The accused has the right to be judged in an atmosphere free from undue prejudice.
  3. Good taste should prevail in the selection, printing and broadcasting of the news. Morbid or sensational details of criminal behavior should not be exploited.
  4. The right of decision about the news rests with the editor or news director. In the exercise of judgment he should consider that:
    • an accused person is presumed innocent until proved guilty;
    • readers and listeners are potential jurors;
    • no person's reputation should be injured needlessly.
    • Reporting on the eve of trial may prejudice potential jurors. Just prior to trial, stories reviewing a suspect's criminal history, incriminating statements, or other prejudicial detail should be avoided whenever possible.
  5. The public is entitled to know how justice is being administered. However, it is unprofessional for any lawyer to exploit any medium of public information to enhance his side of a pending case. It follows that the public prosecutor should avoid taking unfair advantage of his position as an important source of news; this shall not be construed to limit his obligation to make available information to which the public is entitled.

In recognition of these principles, the undersigned hereby testify to their continuing desire to achieve the best possible accommodation of the rights of the individual and the rights of the public when these two fundamental precepts appear to be in conflict in the administration of justice.

(Oregon State Bar, Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, Oregon Association of Broadcasters)


Guidelines For Disclosure and Reporting of Information on Criminal Proceedings

It is generally appropriate to disclose or report the following:

  1. The arrested person's name, age, residence, employment, marital status and similar biographical information.
  2. The charge.
  3. The amount of bail.
  4. The identity of and biographical information concerning both complaining party and victim.
  5. The identity of the investigating and arresting agency and the length of the investigation.
  6. The circumstances of arrest, including time, place, resistance, pursuit and weapons used.

It is rarely appropriate to disclose for publication or to report prior to the trial the following:

  1. The contents of any admission or confession, or the fact that an admission or confession has been made.
  2. Opinions about an arrested person's character, guilt or innocence.
  3. Opinions concerning evidence or argument in the case.
  4. Statements concerning anticipated testimony or the truthfulness of prospective witnesses.
  5. The results of fingerprints, polygraph examinations, ballistic tests or laboratory tests.
  6. Precise descriptions of items seized or discovered during investigation.
  7. Prior criminal charges and convictions.
  8. Evidentiary details that were excluded in prior judicial proceedings in the same case.

Photography

  1. Photographs of a suspect may be released by law enforcement personnel provided it doesn't interfere with enforcement of the law. It is proper to disclose such information as may be necessary to enlist public assistance in apprehending fugitives from justice. Such disclosure may include photographs as well as records of prior arrests and convictions.
  2. Law enforcement and court personnel should not prevent the photographing of defendants when they are in public places outside the courtroom. However, they should not pose the defendant.

The above Guidelines are supplemental to and should be interpreted with the "Oregon Bar-Press-Broadcasters Joint Statement of Principles" adopted in 1962.

The Guidelines are cautionary, not mandatory. They do not prohibit release of, or publication of, information needed to identify or aid in the capture of a suspect or information required in the vital public interest after arrest. Neither do they proscribe publication of information which is already in the public domain.


Uniform Trial Court Rule on Cameras in Courtroom

3.180 Media or other public access coverage of court events

  1. Courtrooms.
    Upon request or on the court's own motion, after notice to all parties, public access coverage shall be allowed in any courtroom, except as provided under this rule.
  2. There shall be no public access coverage of the following:
    • Proceedings in chambers.
    • Any notes or conversations intended to be private including, but not limited to, counsel and judges at the bench and conferences involving counsel and their clients.
    • Dissolution, juvenile, paternity, adoption, custody, visitation, support, mental commitment, trade secrets, and abuse, restraining and stalking order proceedings.
    • At a victim's request, sex offense proceedings.
    • Voir dire.
    • Any juror anywhere during the course of the trial in which he or she sits.
    • Recesses.
  3. Limitations on Denial of Public Access Coverage in Courtrooms.
    A judge may deny a request for or terminate public access coverage only if the judge makes findings of fact on the record setting forth substantial reasons for the denial. The judge may prohibit public access coverage if there is a reasonable likelihood of any of the following:
    • The public access coverage would interfere with the rights of the parties to a fair trial or would affect the presentation of evidence or outcome of the trial.
    • Any cost or increased burden resulting from the public access coverage would interfere with the efficient administration of justice.
  4. A judge may summarily prohibit public access coverage of a particular witness only if the judge finds on the record that public access coverage would endanger the welfare of the witness or materially hamper the witness' testimony.
  5. Areas Outside of Courtrooms.
    The presiding judge may allow public access coverage in any area outside the courtroom that is on the courthouse premises and under the control and supervision of the court. Courts are encouraged to designate an area or areas outside the courtroom that is on the courthouse premises for public access coverage. For areas subject to this subsection, each judicial district, by SLR, may establish, for any court location, procedures for obtaining permission for public access coverage that differ from this subsection or may designate locations where public access coverage is allowed or prohibited. SLR 3.181 is reserved for SLR adopted under this subsection.
  6. Public Access Coverage Defined.
    As used in this rule:
    • "Public access coverage" means coverage by means of any public access coverage equipment.
    • "Public access coverage equipment" means any of the following in the possession of persons other than the court or the court's staff: television equipment; still photography equipment; audio, video, or other electronic recording equipment.
  7. Equipment and Personnel for Public Access Coverage.
    The court may limit the location of public access coverage equipment. One pool video camera and one pool still camera and one pool tape recorder shall be permitted.
    • No public access coverage device shall be operated by more than one person.
    • No person shall use public access coverage equipment that interferes or distracts from proceedings in the courtroom.
    • The video camera must be mounted on a tripod or other device or installed in the courtroom. The tripod or other device must not be moved while the proceedings are in session. Video equipment must be screened where practicable or located and operated as directed by the court.
    • No artificial lighting devices of any kind shall be allowed.
    • Any pooling arrangement required by limitations on equipment and personnel imposed by the judge or by this rule must be the sole responsibility of the persons seeking public access coverage, without calling upon the judge to mediate any disputes involved therein. In the absence of agreement on such issues by persons seeking public access coverage, the judge may exclude any or all public access coverage.
  8. Upon request, any person engaging in public access coverage of a court event or in a courtroom, courthouse, its premises, or environs under the control and supervision of the court must provide to the court, without expense, or to any other person, if the requestor pays actual copying expense, a copy of any public access coverage the person performed.
  9. A judge may impose other restrictions or limitations necessary to preserve the solemnity, decorum, and dignity of the court and to protect the parties, witnesses, and jurors. A judge may terminate any or all public access coverage at any point upon finding, based on substantial reasons in the record, that this UTCR or other rules imposed by the judge have been violated.
  10. Nothing in this rule is intended to limit the court's contempt powers.
  11. Nothing in this rule shall alter or affect the rules of the Supreme Court promulgated under "Video-Trial Project No. 88-38." Under that project, the audio-video coverage constitutes the entire record. In all other courts, the record shall be preserved with court reporters or audiotape. Restrictions on releasing audio-video coverage in courts participating in the Video-Trial Project shall be set forth in separate rules.
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