PITTSBURGH – The CEO and executive editor Postindustrial Media has filed a suit challenging the state's court restrictions on audio recordings of bail hearings.
According to the Oct. 9 U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania filing, Matt Stroud and Postindustrial, an online and print magazine, filed the civil complaint against Sheriff William Mullen, Judge Kim Berkeley Clark and other magisterial district judges claiming the absence of any official record of bail hearings in the Fifth Judicial District infringes on First Amendment activity.
"All bail hearings occur entirely off the record: no court reporter is present, no transcripts are made, and no portion of the proceedings is recorded," the complaint states. "Moreover, the court provides no advance notice of when any hearing will begin, which magistrate will preside, or what information or court filings the magistrate receives prior to the hearing. As a result, numerous objective facts about the bail hearings remain hidden from public view."
The plaintiffs allege they seek to report on Pittsburgh's bail system and want to use audio recordings of bail hearings.
"Pennsylvania court rules exacerbate these barriers to transparency," the lawsuit states. "In particular, the rules make it impossible for people to document – in a thorough, accurate, and consistent way –what happens at bail hearings."
Besides seeking to have the rules declared as unconstitutional, the plaintiffs also seek litigation costs.
The plaintiffs are represented by Robert Friedman and Nicolas Riley of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy & Protection at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. and Charles Kelly and John Marty of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP in Pittsburgh.