Access to Courts

Bloggers Are Not Journalists, Illinois Juvenile Court Judge Declares

An Illinois juvenile court judge refused to allow blogger Elaine Hopkins from to observe and cover a July 25 juvenile court hearing in Peoria, IL. In excluding Hopkins from the courtroom, Judge Albert Purham, Jr. ruled that bloggers are not journalists under Illinois law. Hopkins, who covered her ouster on her website, reported:

Operating a "so-called blog" doesn't make the person a journalist, Purham said. Before the ruling he consulted the lawyers in the courtroom. A lawyer for the parent in this child welfare case had no objection, and her client, Lorraine Singleton who lost her children in 2003 and is trying to get them back, also had no objection. But assistant state's attorney Susan Lucas objected, as did an unidentified female lawyer apparently representing the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. An explanation that has operated since February 2007, has business cards, and is run by Hopkins, a former newspaper reporter known to court personnel, did not sway the judge.

Unlike adult criminal proceedings, which are presumed to be open to the public, juvenile proceedings have traditionally been closed. See In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 25 (1967). Under Illinois' Juvenile Court Act, the general public, except for the "news media," are excluded from juvenile proceedings. The provision addressing access, 705 ILCS 405/1-5, states:


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Interesting article in today's New York Times about, which says it has identified 4,300 informers and 400 undercover agents, many of them from electronic court records.  According to a Justice Department official quoted in the piece:

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