South Dakota Editorial RoundupNew courtroom policy will mean no change in practice The South Dakota Supreme Court has approved a new policy regarding cameras and electronic recording equipment in trial-level courtrooms, but the result will be no change from the present. A bit of background: In 2001, the state Supreme Court decided to allow cameras and other recording devices into its courtrooms. Policies were established, including the use of “pool” equipment (one TV camera that all TV stations would share). The decision has been declared a broad success.
New courtroom policy will mean no change in practice
The South Dakota Supreme Court has approved a new policy regarding cameras and electronic recording equipment in trial-level courtrooms, but the result will be no change from the present.
A bit of background: In 2001, the state Supreme Court decided to allow cameras and other recording devices into its courtrooms. Policies were established, including the use of “pool” equipment (one TV camera that all TV stations would share). The decision has been declared a broad success.
The move to open up lower courts, like the Circuit Courts, has been slower. First, there was a state law that banned radio and television broadcasting and the taking of photographs. The 2008 Legislature repealed the law, leaving the decision up to the Supreme Court.
The justices then appointed a panel of judges, lawyers and representatives of news organizations to study the issue. The majority of the panel voted to allow cameras only if all parties in the trial agreed to allow them. A minority group in the task force proposed to allow cameras in the courtroom unless there was a good reason to ban them. The minority group proposed using the procedures and protocols that are used in Iowa. Juvenile cases would not allow cameras at all.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court decided to endorse the majority proposal, which is similar to the rules in Minnesota. If the media asks for permission to bring in a camera or recorder, the judge can overcome the general ban as long as none of the other parties involved in the case object. Not the judge, not the prosecution, not the defense, not the witnesses, not the jury, not the victim, not the victim advocate, not the bailiff, not the court administrator — nobody objects. That simply never happens.
So while the approved rule appears as though cameras would allow more citizens to see what happens inside a courtroom, we wouldn’t expect it to happen any time soon. Perhaps a few more months or years of the status quo will cause the Supreme Court to reconsider.
Madison Daily Leader
Food, votes hard to pin down
A House committee has rejected a bill that sought to make voter bribery a more serious crime and limit times that candidates for office could offer food to voters.
Good riddance to a proposed law that was more likely to stir up trouble than resolve potential problems.
Accusations of vote bribery were hurled on both sides of the political aisle before the general election in November.
State and federal officials launched investigations of three rallies on American Indian reservations after state Republican Party leaders accused Democrats of breaking the law by offering food in exchange for votes
Democrats countered with their own complaints about Republican campaign events where meals were served.
State and federal law do not allow anyone to offer anything of value in exchange for voting.
But serving meals at campaign events is a common practice, making it difficult to determine when the line has been crossed into an actual violation of the law.
Lawmakers who introduced the bill wanted to make voter bribery a Class 1 misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of one year in jail.
The bill also would have banned candidates and their supporters from feeding voters, then encouraging them to vote on the same day.
The bill cleared the Senate before being rejected by the House State Affairs Committee.
Several lawmakers questioned whether the bill would have unintended consequences and whether it was necessary.
Those are valid concerns. It would be absurd to outlaw food at campaign rallies, but soliciting votes is an inherent part of any campaign.
Existing laws adequately address egregious violations that involve corruption.
Anything short of that runs the risk of being used as tools for partisan prosecutions that have no place in politics.
Shortly after the election was over, the investigations were dropped. Attorney General Marty Jackley, a Republican, said none of the actions violated state law. U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, a Democrat, said the same, noting that no one was obligated to vote after eating the food offered at campaign events.
Best to leave it at that, rather than attempt to design legislation that does nothing to resolve petty campaign disputes.
Rapid City Journal