The Role & Responsibility of the Court

In the final panel of the conference, three judges and two media relations officials discuss the role of the court in protecting the judicial process. The three judges presided over a plethora of high-profile cases including that of the D.C. sniper, John Wayne Bobbitt, Kobe Bryant, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby and they share their experiences with those cases and the methods they used to ensure fair trials. The media relations officials analyzed the changes in the media landscape and what appear to be some effective solutions for providing the media with information, but at the same time protecting the trial procedure.

Questions/themes/discussion topics
  • Tools judges may use to protect the trial process from corruption--change of venue, gag orders, anonymous juries, sequestering juries, etc
  • Are these traditional tools appropriate when the media is no longer traditional?


Panel Video

"So if the goal is accurately informing the public, have we reached the point where these protective orders are actually not working and doing the reverse of what they were intended to do?"

- Gary Hengstler

"I think whenever you have a high-profile case there are three things that a judge really worries about... I think the first thing is that no matter how media attention is involved in a case, you want to preserve what's going on in a courtroom to make it as normal as you possibly can. ...The second thing is you want to be able to get a jury, select a jury that has not been tainted by this pretrial publicity. ... And the third thing is you want to keep that jury impartial, not have them tainted by the process itself."

- Lee Millette

"Not only was I doing legal battle with the prosecution and the defense and the attorneys who were representing the alleged victim, but also the media."

- Terry Ruckriegle

"Now, obviously you have to be appreciative of the First Amendment, but my bottom line responsibility as a judge, is to do all I can obviously [do] to accommodate the press to the extent I can, but my bottom line is to make sure that defendant and that government receive a fair trial."

- Reggie Walton

"Certainly if there are cameras in the courtroom you're feeding this media beast that is so interested in trials nowadays with video every night."

- David Sellers