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September 01, 2010


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John Nelson

I'm not sure the media complaint here. If the information is public then it should be information available through other means. For example, does the Clerk's office have a way to review the case docket for a given case? (I know our jurisdiction and venue does.) Any new filings would then be recorded.

I can only see the media gaining in one of two ways: (1) less work by cutting out middlemen/legwork by directly getting a case status from the DA or (2) gaining non-public information from the DA.

If the complaint is that non-public information can't be gained from the DA anymore then this sounds more like a complaint that the DA isn't leaking information to the press like he/she used to. This complaint seems a bit silly.

Ethically, I think the DA should have been doing this form the beginning. There should be no need to publicize a case on the DA's front. Trial through the media always rubbed me the wrong way. (Then again, I lean more towards a defense view.)

I think you're right on the money. The media can pull the public court filings and attend the hearing or trial. It's all public and should remain public. At the same time, non-public information is a privilege, not a right. In some cases, it is a privilege that violates prosecutorial ethics.

Marc DeGirolami

Greg -- your analysis seems exactly right to me.

The only thing I don't understand is why your reporter or the press generally should be irritated at the DA. If the ethical rules permit, but do not require, a prosecutor to disclose the issues in 3.6, shouldn't the reporter have a problem with the rule, rather than the prosecutor? People angry at this policy shouldn't vote the poor DA out of office; he's just living up to his ethical obligations. They should vote out those bums who think up these client-protective rules.

And in line with that silly thought, I don't understand what issues of "accountability and transparency" are implicated by the DA's decision. Do the perfunctory comments permitted by 3.6 really make for greater "accountability and transparency"? Ridiculous. If anything, a policy of real accountability would welcome a greater sense of restraint and responsibility in the making of public statements by state officers. And for my money, transparency in this sphere is grossly overrated -- a talking point that appeals to people's (usually not well-thought-out) sense that if something exists, they are entitled to know about it.

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