I prefer throwing shade to giving props. There’s something indescribably gratifying about putting on a Rage Against The Machine record and delivering a swift drop-kick to the perineum of the Palmetto State’s failed status quo.
“The rage is relentless … we need a movement with a quickness.”
But you can’t be angry all the time … especially if the people you are drop-kicking actually do the things you ask them to do (or stop doing the things you tell them to quit).
In those cases, give credit where credit is due … right?
A few weeks ago, I penned a column praising South Carolina circuit court judge Daniel Hall – one of my top targets in the battle over excessive judicial leniency in the Palmetto State. Despite our prior criticism of his rulings, Hall permitted our cameras into a Lexington County, S.C. courtroom to cover a hearing in one of the highest-profile civil cases tied to the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga.
Hall allowed my news team near-unfettered access to that hearing … even though I repeatedly and vehemently excoriated him prior to the hearing (and will probably do so again in the future).
“Not only did he demonstrate a genuine commitment to transparency – something sorely needed in the state’s judicial branch of government – he was incredibly gracious about it,” I noted at the time.
South Carolina’s judicial branch – an effective subsidiary of its legislative branch – has been absolutely atrocious when it comes to consistently allowing media access to courtrooms across the state.
Some judges permit it, others don’t …
Earlier this week, S.C. circuit court judge Roger M. Young Sr. came down on the right side of this equation when he allowed unfettered media access to a probation revocation hearing for accused teen rapist Bowen Turner.
Well … almost unfettered. Our director of special projects Dylan Nolan tried in vain to surreptitiously place a microphone closer to the action on Wednesday but the Orangeburg County sheriff’s office was one step ahead of him, sadly.
Still … we were allowed to bring our cameras, computers and recording devices into the courtroom (and unlike the Murdaugh civil hearing, we were even allowed to livestream the event).
To be clear: Such access should be automatic, not permission-based. It shouldn’t be up to individual judges to determine who is allowed to broadcast from their courtrooms because let’s be honest – these are not their courtrooms. The courtrooms belong to the people. And while I have no problem with judges making members of the media identify themselves in court – and disclose whether (and how) they are recording or broadcasting specific proceedings – there should never be any restrictions imposed upon access.
Still, judge Young deserves credit for opening the Orangeburg County court house to the media this week – and for reaching the proper decision regarding the probationary status of Bowen Turner.
We need more judges who are willing to subject themselves and those who appear before them to the maximum level of public scrutiny. More importantly, we need more judges who are willing to look past the “powers that be” and hold those who violate the law accountable for their actions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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