Three%uFFFDWest Jordan policemen and one muscular officer in plain clothes were present in Judge Ronald Kunz'sWest Jordan justice%uFFFDcourt room yesterday afternoon for the hearing on Robert Wiker's probation violation. And one didn't like note-taking.---
The officer in question informed the court before the proceeding started in stern tones that there would%uFFFDbe NO%uFFFDrecording of any sort of the hearing. No cell phones, no tape recorders. They would be confiscated if%uFFFDfound turned on.%uFFFD
I dutifully set about taking down notes of the proceedings as a follow-up blog for my news story last week. Just as Judge Kunz was getting to the end of his conversation with the domestic violence victim, Tricia Potter, the officer who had cautioned not to record the hearing%uFFFDbore down on me.
Two inches from my face - we were so close I could peer deeply, but deeply into his pissed-off eyes - he hissed at me did he not make it clear there would be no recording of any sort in the court? I explained I was a reporter. This it seemed meant nothing to him. I had the distinct feeling he was about to yank my notepad and pen out of my hand.
As we argued in quiet but angry%uFFFDtones, the plain clothes officer stood up and turned towards us, presumably ready to get involved in the altercation that so many police officers had been brought to the justice court that afternoon to deal with. A West Jordan police spokesman, however, said that the unusually large police presence was not unusual at all. It was a reflection of the court hearing a domestic violence calender. Potter's sister, Pam Hennessey, found this curious, since at her ex-brother-in-law's previous domestic violence hearings there had only been one officer - the one who loathed note-taking.
The officer threatened to confiscate my notes. "This is a court of%uFFFDNO record," he%uFFFDhissed, then put his finger to his lips to silence further debate on my part. He went over to the court clerk to see what the judge wanted to do.
A far more relaxed officer sitting in front of me, after enquiring if I was%uFFFDa reporter,%uFFFDslapped my leg and told me I was fine.
But as I left the hearing West Jordan's standard bearer for censorship bore down upon me once more. "Let's take it outside," he said, meaning outside the court room.
Again, his face inches from mine, he acknowledged he had not included note-taking in his list of banned courtroom%uFFFDactivities and that was his mistake. He would not confiscate my notes, I was free to go. I debated for a moment arguing he had no legal right to take my notes anyway.
But then the good cop%uFFFDput his arm around my shoulders, led me off to a corner and said, laughing, that%uFFFDthere was clearly some confusion in his ranks and%uFFFDthat they could not stop citizens taking notes in court.
I was the one left somewhat confused. Had Judge Kunz issued an instruction there be no recording of the court proceedings, digital or, at least by implication, written, as my police officer nemesis had led me to believe? The West Jordan spokesman said that indeed the officer was confused, having apparently misunderstood the judge's requirement of no recording taking place.
Glad that's sorted out.