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Media Guidelines

Hawai`i Supreme Court Rules 5.1 and 5.2 and 5.3

Application for Extended Coverage

The news media must notify a court coordinator of their intent to provide any electronic or photographic coverage of a judicial proceeding. This includes audio recordings, film, videotape or still photography by submitting an application for extended coverage within a reasonable time in advance of the start of the proceeding. “A reasonable time” is defined by Hawai`i Supreme Court Rule 5.1(e)(1).

Only one written request is necessary for any given case. Once an application is made, all media are considered to have applied, i.e., if a television station submits an application, newspaper coverage is included, and vice versa. Once an application is submitted and granted for a case, that permission for coverage will apply through the final judgment and any post-judgment motions and appeals.

Equipment and Operators

Only one news media television camera and one still camera – each with a single camera operator – will be permitted in the courtroom while court is in session. A second television camera, however, may be allowed by the judge, at the judge’s discretion, for live coverage. A second still photographer also may be admitted at the discretion of the judge. Cameras and operators must remain in designated locations. Do not conduct interviews in any part of the courtroom.

No artificial lighting device of any kind shall be used in connection with the television camera or the still camera. The judge will decide where cameras and microphones can be placed in the courtroom. Judges differ on this – so please ask.

News media must arrange any pooling of photographic images, footage, or film among themselves. The court will not participate in any pooling agreement.

Equipment and camera operators must be ready to record prior to the court proceeding.

Equipment must not be installed, moved, or removed from the courtroom while court is in session. Camera operators may not move around the courtroom while court is in session.

Audio Recording

A judge may, whether or not extended coverage has been otherwise allowed, grant a timely request by a party, a member of the public, or an individual member of the media, to audio record proceedings by means of a small electronic device such as a laptop, a tablet, a hand-held recorder, a cell phone, or a smart phone with a built-in microphone, as long as it is operated from the seat of the person who made the request

Prohibitions

  • Never photograph jurors or even give the appearance of photographing jurors.
  • There shall be no audio coverage of conferences between attorneys and clients, or between co-counsel and clients or parties, or between counsel and the judge held at the bench.
  • There shall be no audio/visual coverage when court is in recess.
  • There shall be no extended coverage of any conference or proceedings held in the chambers of a judge or any in-camera proceeding.

Objections to Coverage

A party may object to extended coverage at the beginning of any new stage of the case. If a party objects or if the court orders it on its own motion, a hearing will be held to determine whether extended coverage will be allowed for that stage of the case. If a hearing is held, the media have standing to be heard and may present evidence. Any objection by a party to extended coverage must be made before extended coverage begins for that stage of the case. If no party objects, no hearing will be held.

When a request for extended coverage has been denied, the media or any party may seek review of the order by filing a motion with the appropriate administrative judge. A motion for review shall be filed no later than five days after the filing of the order regarding coverage which is being challenged. A party may seek appellate review of an order regarding extended coverage, including any such order issued by the administrative judge, but immediate appellate review of such an order is not available as a matter of right.

Violations

Any violation of Hawai`i Supreme Court Rules 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3, which govern media coverage of court proceedings, may result in sanctions, including but not limited to the termination of media coverage privileges.

Sources of Information

Judges

When a question about a case arises, a journalist’s natural instinct is to call the judge handling the matter. After all, who could provide a more accurate, authoritative answer? In most instances the judge will not be able to respond to questions because state judges are bound by the Hawai’i Revised Code of Judicial Conduct, which says that “A judge shall not, while a proceeding is pending or impending in any court, make any public comment that might reasonably be expected to affect its outcome or impair its fairness or make any nonpublic comment that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing.” The Code is available online at https://www.courts.state.hi.us/docs/court_rules/rules/rcjc.htm (The same rules apply to judges’ assistants and law clerks.) Some judges, however, will respond, or have a court employee respond, to a journalist’s questions about general procedures and processes not related to a specific case.

That is not to say you can never speak with a state judge. Many judges speak at or attend bar association programs and other public events, at which it is perfectly appropriate to introduce yourself. Some also will talk informally to journalists about non case-related matters.

Public Affairs Office

The Hawai`i State Judiciary has a Communications and Community Relations Office responsible for assisting journalists reporting on the state-court system. The office may be reached at 808-539-4909, or by email at pao@courts.state.hi.us, or facsimile 808-539-4801.

Please keep in mind that even these sources have their limits. They will not be able to talk about the substance of a case – such as the meaning of a ruling or what defenses might be available to the charges in an indictment. They may, however, be able to help with access to court documents, schedules, pretrial hearings, and trials, but cannot interpret those documents or proceedings.

Online Case Information

eCourt* Kokua
eCourt* Kokua provides information on the following courts:

  • Traffic
  • District Court civil and criminal
  • Circuit Court, civil and criminal
  • Family Court civil and criminal
  • Land Court
  • Tax Appeal Court
  • Intermediate Court of Appeals
  • Hawai’i Supreme Court

The information is provided as a public service for use as reference material and does not constitute an official court record.

Ho`ohiki provides information on Family Court civil cases. The records available through Ho`ohiki are also not official records.