Brickbats

Brickbat: Mandating Censorship

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The North Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled that a judge did not exceed his authority when he sentenced a man convicted of contempt of court for recording a court proceeding to write an essay on respect for the court, post it online and delete any negative comments. Judge Christopher Brook dissented from the ruling, saying the judge had a right to prevent court proceedings from being recorded and to find the man guilty of contempt for violating that order. But he said the sentence raised free speech concerns. "The probation condition imposed by the trial court requiring defendant to write and publish an essay about respect for the courtroom on his social media and internet accounts and to delete any negative comments made by third-parties on this essay bears no reasonable relationship to defendant's rehabilitation or to his crime and raises serious First Amendment concerns," Brook wrote.

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  1. Thin skinned and drunk on power is no way to go through life.

    1. But fun while it lasts.

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  2. The Court of Appeals ruled in 2019 that it was clear Eldridge knew what he was doing was wrong…

    Against policy and wrong are not necessarily the same thing.

  3. If we have a right to record police encounters, why don’t we have a right to record court proceedings again?

    1. FYTW

    2. Because then the public would learn that most judges make decisions about people’s lives, rights, and liabilities with the flip of a coin and routinely threaten lawyers and litigants alike for questioning their godly authority.

      1. Not to defend the Judge’s actions but more realistically, or at least conceptually, there is a need to (e.g.) disclose Kyle Rittenhouse’s location in a court of law without disclosing it to the public.

  4. The case all started in 2018 when William Coward, a Macon County judge, criminally charged Davin Eldridge — from the local news site “Trappalachia” — for recording a video on his phone from court.

    There were signs posted saying no one is allowed to record in court, but a bailiff saw Eldridge recording anyway and told him to stop. When he didn’t, the officer told Coward, who stopped the trial to reiterate his rule against recording, according to legal records.

    “Because I said so” is no basis for the law. As long as it’s a public proceeding, why is there a rule about no filming? Doesn’t the public have an interest in knowing what its employees are up to? Many courts disallow filming or photography on the basis that a gaggle of paparazzi distracts from the seriousness of the proceedings and the majesty of the law and dignity of the court, but we all know by now the law and the courts are a sick joke worthy only of contempt.

    1. Like judge Judy?

    2. Why not hold every trial in front of the press and in the court of public opinion? What could possibly go wrong?

  5. ” . . . bears no reasonable relationship to defendant’s rehabilitation or to his crime and raises serious First Amendment concerns . . . ”

    Yeah, so?

    1. I’m not 100% agreed on the entirety of that sentence. I agree that it bears no reasonable relationship to the defendent’s rehabilitation, but it’s not like the judge issued a bench warrant to find someone off the street to write him an essay.

      Hell, compared to whatever arbitrary fine they can issue and a night in lockup, an essay seems pretty innocuous. Would we be OK if it went down that way, along established procedural lines? You can publish anything you like as long as you pay the fine and have your lawyer do it with your one phone call from your prison cell?

      Be interesting to know what happens if you don’t publish your essay or simply retweet someone else’s essay.

  6. Is this adult jurisprudence or middle school “justice”?

  7. The probation condition imposed by the trial court requiring defendant to write and publish an essay about respect for the courtroom

    An enterprising asshole willing to risk jail time could have a lot of fun with that essay.

    1. Presumably, somebody at legalzoom is already boilerplating essays and making copies that you can pick up at your local office supply store.

      1. I was thinking about taking that essay in a different direction, but that would work too.

  8. If you’re already in jail and seeking “probation”, you probably have already lost your job. Sound like time to have some fun by repeatedly pimping and ridiculing the judge to try to provoke him so far out on a limb that he commits an act beyond the coverage of qualified immunity. Might even eventually get some bucks out of it, and likely could stir up enough dust to cost the bastard his cushy job come next election. I’d have to label anything I wrote about “respect for the court” as creative fiction or I could be liable for false advertising.

    Despite my very low opinion of courts and judges, sadly after considerable thought, I can’t suggest a practical way to improve the system.

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