Thursday, August 2, 2007

Daily Sound Publisher's Folly

When thinking of the First Amendment I think about the little guy standing up to the "man" (e.g., the Government). Specifically, I think about the right of a little guy to take an unpopular public stand in the face of potential punishment or prior restraint. I don't readily think about a newspaper photographer's right to keep his or her unpublished photos private when doing so serves no important purpose or interest. This is why it is so hard for me to appreciate why the Daily Sound publisher, Jeramy Gordon, is putting up such a fuss about the fact that Deputy Public Defender Karen Atkins, of the Santa Barbara Public Defender's Office, wants to view photos which are material, and potentially very useful, in defense of her client who stands accused of homicide.

“The reason I’m standing my ground on this,” Sound publisher Gordon said, “is because I believe reporters and photographers are neutral observers protected by the First Amendment, they are not supposed to be an arm of the police, the District Attorney, or the Public Defender.”

What important interest is Gordon really trying to protect here? And whatever the real or imagined interest, could that interest be more powerful than the right of the "little guy" to defend himself against the Government? While Ms. Atkins delivers herself as a powerful member of Government, in reality she is rather powerless in as much she is a mere advocate for an indigent teenager charged with murder. It is absurd for Mr. Gordon to be styling himself the victim of an overbearing Government when it is a teenager accused of murder - and not the Government - who is putting a demand on him. The only victim possible, it seems to me, would be the accused, if indeed the Santa Barbara Superior Court were to have followed along any further with this irritating assertion of First Amendment privilege by Gordon. The Court made the right call.


Anonymous said...

It's the ignorance of lawyers like yourself that make it harder and harder to maintain a free and independent press in today's society. I can tell by the tone of this post that you are a criminal defense lawyer and possibly friends with the said defender. Would you like to see this county become another China, in terms of it's control over the media?

sbcrimlawyer said...

First, captain obvious, yes, I am criminal defense lawyer. Second, Karen Atkins is my friend; you read my tone correctly. However, if you think that criticized Jeramy Gordon's completely myopic view on the First Amendment as a gesture of friendship, and nothing more, think again. Gordon's completely one-sided view, which anonymous shares, is a bit like a Second Amendment zealot wanting to limit the government's role in preventing kindergartners from wearing sidearms.