Why Judge Banned Electronic Communication from Sandusky Trial


After reporters asked for clarification on a ban on tweeting direct quotes during the Jerry Sandusky trial, a Pennsylvania judge changed his mind and banned all electronic communication in the courtroom, says the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Media outlets, including the Associated Press and ESPN, sought clarification of Judge John Cleland’s order that allowed reporters to tweet or use other electronic communications if they did not use direct quotes. The media argued that restricting the use of direct quotes is unconstitutional and the banning direct quotes would “risk diminishing the accuracy of reports on the trial.” The motion also stated that “(t)here is no workable way for reporters to avoid using any direct quotes in their text-based reports” and “using direct quotes in reports from the courtroom does not prejudice any interest or in any way impede the judicial process.”

The judge said he was “compelled to rescind” the the order granting electronic-based communications because, based on the media's motion, he finds his interpretation of the law “confusing to reporters, unworkable, and therefore, likely unenforceable.” The judge’s basis for the prohibition of tweeting direct quotes was his interpretation of Pennsylvania state court laws that ban broadcasting of court proceedings. The judge equated the tweeting of live quotes with the broadcast of live proceedings.

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