Panel recommends statewide ban on courtroom tweeting

With  laptops and IPhones at their fingertips, reporters in a Harrisburg courtroom awaited the start of opening arguments Monday in the much-anticipated trial of former House Speaker Bill DeWeese.

Then Dauphin County President Judge Todd Hoover entered and told them there would be no tweeting in his courtroom.

It was the same courthouse where only weeks earlier dozens of journalists had tweeted without incident during the preliminary hearing for two Penn State administrators - Tim Curley and Gary Schultz - charged with perjury in the sex abuse scandal involving former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky.

Hoover cited a proposal by a panel advising the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the use of electronic communication in the courtroom to bar the use of micro-blogs, ie. twitter, during criminal cases.

The proposed change throws into question whether tweeting will be allowed during the upcoming high -profile trials of Curley, Schultz and Sandusky. Hoover is now handling the Curley and Schultz cases. The Sandusky case is being heard by a different judge in Centre County.

The Supreme Court's rules committee dismissed the argument that online updates filed by reporters using smartphones and computers would not intrude upon court proceedings as television cameras would.

"The committee rejected this argument, noting that there are other reasons for the ban on broadcasting, including fair trial and privacy concerns," the report said.

Instead. the committee wrote. a statewide prohibition would unify rules in hundreds of courtrooms across 67 counties.

Word of the proposed ban was published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin just days before the first ever live TV broadcast of oral arguments before the state Supreme Court. Chief Justice Ron Castille said the court would allow a cable news network to go live with the legislative redistricting proceedings because of the importance of the issue.

Comments on the proposed rules may be submitted until April 6.

Courts spokeswoman Amy Kelchner said it is up to the the Supreme Court justices whether to adopt or reject the committee's recommendations.


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