As editor of Mesh News Desk (MND), I cover trials either in person or remotely through a feed provided by Courtroom View Network (CVN). David Siegel who works there, has always been very friendly. We alert each other to upcoming trials.
Lately CVN has impose restrictions on coverage – do not capture images from the court or show exhibits. Okay, I said. They are a for-profit company and I could see if, in the unlikely event, someone found our coverage, it could hurt the CVN business model. No problem. I appreciate the access (though courts require a “pool camera” to share with other media).
After covering approximately eight of these defective pelvic mesh trials, the expert witnesses are often the same, Peggy Pence PhD, Bruce Rosenzweig, MD, T. Michael Margolis MD, on and on, so their background is easily augmented by accessing past coverage.
And as is customary, readers of Mesh News Desk (MND) make comments under a story. That’s what happened on the second day of coverage (here) of the Eve Sherrer v. Boston Scientific and C.R. Bard trial in Kansas City. See MND coverage of opening arguments here.
The plaintiff had been implanted with two pelvic meshes to treat her prolapse. Most women receive only one and about one-third of them have problems with intense pain, shrinking mesh, nerve encapsulation, chronic infection etc.
This is the first time a trial has focused on two defendants at the same time, so it was an interesting case to follow.
On the second day of the trial, the defense criticized a world-renowned doctor who has now turned mesh removal expert. He caused the plaintiff’s injuries, at least partially, they claimed. As expected man comments praised Dr. Raz as a hero. I monitor comments for civility. Nothing stood out as particularly profane or inappropriate.
But the comments caught the eye of the defense team. Oral arguments were made before Judge Robert M. Schieber to disallow the camera in the court. This would not only hurt MND coverage but CVN as well.
CVN immediately hired a media attorney from Kansas City, Jean Maneke who filed a well thought-out motion and presented it to the judge on Sunday December 6, according to the docket.
Among the things she wrote, CVN could not be held responsible for content posted on a website over which it has no editorial control, according to a Missouri Lawyers Weekly story on the issue. Reader comments appear on newspaper and television websites regularly. Restricting access to the court, does nothing to prevent comments.
“Trials are inherently public events, and attorneys representing large, publicly traded corporations at a multi-million dollar product liability trial involving medical devices alleged to have injured thousands of women nationwide can and should expect to be the subject of news media coverage and public discussion, whether in print on social media sites or around the local coffeehouse counter, which may not always be flattering or may be potentially hostile.” ~ Attorney Jean Maneke.
She characterized comments in question as “inflammatory” but not threatening. Here Jean Maneke’s Motion for CVN.
Mesh News Desk had no representative in the courtroom. As editor, I had talked to the public information officer previously, given her my name, background (30 years in news, including a stint as an anchor/ reporter at KTVI in St. Louis. MO), assured her I’m not a legal referral service or work for a law firm but just a journalist who thinks this story deserves the light of day. She listened politely. We were cordial.
I asked if I should talk to the judge on Friday, December 4, as this all broke, to introduce myself. Thinking he might be a reasonable person, I’d have expected a speaker phone to listen to the proceedings and make my own case. That didn’t happen.
Judge Robert M. Schieber decided to curtail the camera access to MND while CVN maintained its camera in the court. Split the baby in half as judges are inclined to do.
Today’s story in Missouri Lawyers Weekly on the issue says the basis for the judge’s decision is that MND is an “advocacy organization.” (I spoke to them looking for a law firm. They did a story instead. ) This is my first understanding of the objection to continuing coverage.
(Sorry there is a pay wall and I was asked not to share the story)
Interesting. MND is an “organization” of one. It is a for-profit publishing business. I alone own it. Just like newspaper and TV station websites, comments are allowed. There is no difference. Comments are monitored for civility and profanity, just like any media website.
Even if MND was an advocacy organization, there is nothing in the rules governing media access to Missouri courts that prevents access to the courts by anyone who is a member of an advocacy organization. If the Susan Komen organization wanted access to the CVN feed for educational outreach to its members, would they be denied? Missouri Court Operating Rule 16 says no.
The story in Missouri Lawyers Weekly ends with your editor’s comment, “This isn’t just a private club that the defense gets to make a decision about what coverage they like and don’t like,” Akre said. “It’s ridiculous.” #
Bottom Line- About 5,000 daily readers of MND lose a resource to keep appraised of litigation involving two of the largest mesh manufacturers. MND is still attempting to reach out to the judge through legal means to regain access. Please allow the process to take its course!
Jean Maneke – Motion, CVN camera in the courtroom
Web reporter shut out of trial after reader’s comment
By Scott Lauck
“An online journalist remotely covering a major trial in Jackson County Circuit Court has been shut out of access to the proceedings after defense counsel objected to a reader’s comments posted on her website.
Jane Akre, the Florida-based editor of Mesh Medical Device News Desk, said she was trying to re-establish access to a privately maintained pool camera that provides a web feed of the trial. The case, which began last week, involves claims against companies Boston Scientific and C. R. Bard that make transvaginal mesh products that plaintiffs allege have injured women in whom they were implanted. It’s one of a series of such suits around the country.
Akre covered the first two days of the trial via a pool camera arrangement through Courtroom View Network, a private company that provides subscriptions to video coverage of trials nationwide that are of interest to legal professionals. According to court records, CVN applied in November to serve as the pool camera for the trial, providing online access for a number of traditional and trade media outlets, including Akre’s.
According to a court filing made by CVN, attorneys for the defense on Friday complained to the court about comments left by online readers on Akre’s website and asked that CVN’s coverage be suspended. The company successfully argued that it should be allowed to continue. CVN, however, terminated Akre’s access to its feed.
It was unclear if she would be able to regain access……”
MO COURT RULES OF OPERATION
Court Operating Rule 16
Media Coordinator, shall work with and through the appropriate media coordinator regarding all arrangements for media coverage.
“Pooling arrangements shall be the sole responsibility of the media coordinator, and the judge shall not be called upon to mediate any dispute as to the appropriate media representatives authorized to cover a particular judicial proceeding. Requests for copies of audio recording, video tape or photographs shall be directed to the pool representative only, who shall supply copies upon request to media representatives at a price not exceeding actual cost.”
“COR 16 does not affect the right of the public, including a member of the news media, to attend and observe any judicial proceeding which is otherwise open to the public. In other words, this Rule does not affect existing law under which reporters, sketch artists and others may attend judicial proceedings as members of the public.”
JEAN MANEKE- Mo Gets ‘F’ Ranking in Sunshine Law, 2007