The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission last week rejected Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen’s request that it allow broadcast or recording of his public hearings on ethics charges.
The Commission acknowledged that it COULD authorize broadcast or recording, but its practice hax been not to do so an so it denied Griffen’s request. It added it would continue to allow broadcasting, reporting and photographing in areas immediately adjacent to the hearing room before the hearing and during recesses.
My two cents: The Arkansas Supreme Court livestreams oral arguments. The Arkansas House televises committee meetings and House sessions. The Arkansas Senate grudgingly allows audio broadcast of its sessions. It is easier than ever to provide worldwide and immediate web access to public proceedings in unobtrusive ways. A cellphone and Facebook account with a Wi-Fi connection is all you need. More access means more accountability. The JDDC should change with the time. So should the Arkansas Senate. So should every agency that does the public’s business. The public and media are allowed to attend, but in the dramatically shrinking world of journalism there aren’t enough reporters to get around to all the meetings worthy of observation.
A hearing is scheduled in Griffen’s case Friday. He faces ethics charges for participating in a death penalty demonstration after he’d decided a case over drugs used in an execution. The issue wasn’t the death penalty, but the state’s right to use drugs obtained by dubious means for a use not allowed by the manufacturer. His decision did, however, block the use of the drugs.