The First Ward Report – The Batavia bomb material possession case resolved!

And when I say “resolved,” I mean resolved on two levels, but we’ll only cover the first one today. And that one is, who is the “news media.”

Batavia High School

Before you get too terribly excited, the 16th Circuit didn’t really answer that question, but not only does their new ruling have merit, it is an excellent foundation to build upon.

Harkening back to a time before the plague era commenced, this journalist was collaboratively working with 16th Circuit Chief Judge Clint Hull to determine what the statutory definition of “the news media” should be. More specifically, we were pursuing that answer in regard to who can attend a generally closed juvenile hearing.

Before this new order, only reporters with major newspaper affiliations were allowed to attend those hearings, but given my previous coverage of this case, I wanted to hear the Kane County prosecutor’s transfer argument for myself. I wanted to understand why she believed the Batavia high schooler charged with possession of bomb making material should be tried as an adult.

True to his word, with a little help from his black-robed friends, Chief Judge Clint Hull and presiding juvenile court judge Kathy Karayannis issued their ruling well before the May 28th hearing. So, here’s a summary of what it contains:

  • The order applies to all journalists and not just bloggers.
  • Any journalist who wishes to attend a juvenile court proceeding must submit an officially court stamped request to do so at least seven days before the hearing.
  • Once filed, the journalist must provide copies of that request to the prosecutor and defense attorney involved.
  • Those attorneys have may file a written objection to the journalist’s courtroom presence within that seven-day window.
  • If there is no objection, or the judge hearing the case denies all objections, the same judge will make the final attendance determination.

That certainly works for me!

Because the inevitable result of Internet opening the door to a vast democratization, is that anyone can call themselves a journalist. But the truth also is, with perhaps one exception, I’m exponentially more of a journalist than anyone at the Daily Herald or the suburban Tribune newspapers. Just ignore my adoring throng’s incessant protests to the contrary.

The Edgar County Watchdogs would like you to believe they’re journalists, but with absolutely no standards and no ethical foundation, they’ve become nothing more than schoolyard bullies with a voice.

Then there’s a cooking blog I adore because the author’s approach to communicating her craft is beyond journalistic.

So, to some degree, they’re all “journalists,” but does that mean they should all be allowed to participate in a juvenile court hearing? Clearly, the only realistic alternative is to vet everyone each and every time.

And I have no problem with that!

Ah! But the irony here is (And there’s always an irony with Jeff Ward, isn’t there?), all the local newspaper publishers, editors, and reporters I live to correctly criticize have a new and far more fascinating reason to loathe me.

As if they needed another one!

Though I have to say it’s more than amusing to hear how newly furious they are because my eminently simple court ruling request forces them to take those additional steps.

As it is with any attempt to provide a statutory answer to a philosophical question, the order will require improvement. It should include at least a basic definition of what a journalist is and the Court needs to be far more specific regarding the grounds on which a prosecutor, defense attorney, or judge can object to a journalist’s presence.

I know it’s hard to believe, but some 16th Circuit judges aren’t too terribly fond of me. And I’m such a nice guy, too!

But since it’s all wine and roses this round, I want to thank Chief Judge Hull and his counterparts for this cooperative effort to answer the “Who’s a journalist?” question. This is a perfect example of how the media and the courts can avoid those far too frequent pitched battles.

In a final irony, I did not attend yesterday’s hearing because a courtroom is the last place I’d ever want to be during a pandemic, and I suspected a plea deal was the works and it was. We will discuss that agreement on Monday.

All I can say is, all those self-proclaimed good Christians, you know, the readers who so easily dismissed this young man, are gonna have quite a bit to answer for when it’s their time to be judged.

 

 

4 thoughts on “The First Ward Report – The Batavia bomb material possession case resolved!

  1. So, a journalist is credited to be a journalist just because the new York times or Chicago Tribune say so? Because they are an established paper? Do they do back ground checks? See what religion they are or what side of politics they are in? How does that make a journalist? If one is committed to the truth, no matter the outcome, then, that is a journalist.
    Is there a school for journalism that one must attend and graduate? Or is just because they work for a known paper or news company?
    I like how you did what you did. Continue the great work.

    • Robert,

      Thank you for the compliment, but please extend the same to the Chief Judge Clint Hull and all the other applicable Kane County judges. They worked with me in the spirit of cooperation every step of the way.

      Jeff

  2. Good work! Thank you to the judges who worked with you to put this in place. It wouldn’t hurt anyone to have to go through a process in order to attend a hearing on a juvenile as long as the process is equally enforced.

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