Wednesday, July 27, 2011

No drug court broadcasts on TV, Arkansas Supreme Court rules

Posted By on Wed, Jul 27, 2011 at 5:07 PM

Judge Mary Ann Gunn image

Today, the Arkansas Supreme Court said that drug court proceedings cannot be broadcast on TV. The court reviewed the issue following a Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee ruling last year that then Circuit Judge Mary Ann Gunn of Fayetteville requested regarding national broadcast of her drug court. A NWA station had broadcast Gunn's proceedings six years prior.

The three-member panel strongly disapproved, and the Supreme Court responded by organizing a committee of Arkansas media and legal minds — Steve Barnes, Circuit Judge Gary Arnold of Benton, Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter, et al — to consider Administrative Rule 6, which allows broadcasting under certain circumstances.

Gunn left the bench in June, but as Max has reported, continues to move forward with a syndicated TV show, "Last Shot with Judge Gunn." The latest from Fayetteville sources indicates that filming is focusing on the success of past drug court participants.

In today's order, the ad hoc committee weighed the pros of broadcasting (openness, the defendant's ability to object to being broadcast, the potential educational effect, etc.) versus the cons (the potential misuse, the difficulties of reviewing and overseeing the proceedings, etc.), and landed on the con side. And the Supreme Court agreed. You can read the full opinion here.

Sources had suggested that Gunn wanted to pair her success stories with footage from past, locally aired programs. Though today's opinion doesn't specifically mention rebroadcast, that would seem to be a risky move considering the court has said the proceedings should be closed.

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