Photo courtesy of the Judicial Branch Web site

The Judicial Media Committee, a group of judges, journalists, and attorneys created by Supreme Court Justice David Borden’s Judicial Access Task Force met for the first time Thursday to discuss its mission as mediator between the judicial branch and the news media.

In his opening remarks Borden (pictured) said the committee’s mission is to “improve communications and relations between the third branch and the fourth estate.” The committee creates a way for the judicial branch and the press to facilitate communication, in a way that ultimately will benefit the public, Borden said.

According to the recommendations in the Judicial Access Task Force’s report, the Judicial Media Committee should be charged to form a quick-response team comprised of judges and reporters to be available to review questions and disputes over judicial proceedings the same day a dispute arises. This sub-group of the Judicial Media Committee will be known as the Fire Brigade. Borden said the Fire Brigade, “is not designed to be a court of appeal in any way. It is intended, instead, to be a form of prompt and informal mediation between court, including its clerical staff, and media.”

This sub-group will have “no power, but the power of persuasion,” he said.

Superior Court Judge David Gold and Journal Inquirer Reporter Heather Nann Collin stressed the informality of the brigade process. Collins said the group would not be “frontline responders.” She said a reporter with a dispute would be required to call the Judicial Branch’s External Affairs Office first and then if the dispute continued a member of the External Affairs team would call a member of the brigade. She said if a member of the media were continually denied access to records in a particular court then that may be something the brigade would handle.

The brigade would only handle phone calls from the media or the judicial branch. Collins said it wasn’t “comfortable taking a call from the public.”

Meanwhile the Judicial Media Committee will form two subcommittees one to schedule events and bring in speakers to talk about issues and another to create a survey to distribute to the justices and the media.

One initiative “that is most intriguing is the idea of sending judges and journalists back to school,” Borden said. “A ‘Law School for Journalists’ could provide practical information that would be useful to journalists in their daily work covering the courts. I also suggest that a counterpart—‘Journalism School for Judges’—could certainly be developed and become part of the judicial education program that is offered to the judges at the annual institute in June and throughout the year.”

The idea may sound strange at first, but its been done.

The Knight Foundation had funded a Master of Studies in Law degree program at Yale Law School, but after 28-years it dropped the program. The program existed until 2004 and was created to improve the media’s coverage of legal issues.

For more information on the Judicial Media Committee click here to visit its Web site.