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Judges, journalists need not be antagonists, says Kentucky chief justice

By The Associated Press


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SOMERSET, Ky. — Though they often spend time in the same courtroom, judges and journalists admit they don't always agree on issues involving the justice system.

That shouldn't stop them from working together, Kentucky Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert said on March 21.

"There is no need for there to be camerinatural antagonism," Lambert said. "By working together we can find a reasonable level of understanding."

Lambert was speaking at a meeting of judges and journalists in Somerset. It was the seventh and final in a series of forums held across the state over the past two years.

The forums, sponsored by the Administrative Office of the Courts in conjunction with the University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences, were intended to soothe the sometimes-strained relations between judges and journalists.

In an unexpected development on March 21, Lambert said he would create a committee to re-evaluate a Kentucky Supreme Court rule that allows judges to limit the number and types of cameras in courtrooms.

Ken Shmidheiser, editor of the McCreary County Record, suggested the review, saying the move to quieter and smaller digital cameras makes limits less necessary. He said cameras are not as intrusive as they were when the rule was issued.

Bob Schulman, special projects coordinator for the University of Louisville, said the forums have helped judges and journalists understand one another's jobs.

Lambert said judges have a vested interest in working closely with journalists.

"We have no other voice, no other medium to get our message out," he said.

Daniel Goyette, chief public defender in Jefferson County who attended most of the forums, said he would like to see them continue in some fashion.

"I think they've been greatly beneficial if for no other reason because they've opened up a line of communications between the two," he said.

Amanda Bennett, editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, said such meetings are always helpful to promote understanding. She said this week's discussion helped to demystify the two professions.

"A lot of the problems, frustrations and tensions between judges and reporters come not because of our differences but because of our similarities," said Bell Circuit Judge James Bowling. "Both seek truth, both are fiercely independent and both seek results."


Justice and Journalism
Justice and Journalism program description.  11.30.01