Civil Beat will be the first news organization to report live from a federal trial in Hawaii.
In a written order filed Tuesday morning, Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway granted Civil Beat’s request to bring a laptop and wireless Internet connection into the courtroom from the Aloun Farms human trafficking trial.
This marks the first time in Hawaii history that a federal judge has permitted a reporter to use a computer in her courtroom during a trial, or allowed that reporter to transmit to the Internet from the courtroom, according to Gina Doane, chief deputy clerk for the U.S. District Court in Hawaii.
After stating in open court Monday that she was inclined to allow a journalist to live blog the proceedings under certain conditions, she made her ruling official on Tuesday morning.
“This order does not set a districtwide policy,” the order says. “Indeed, this order does not establish a uniform policy even for this trial judge. Similar requests will, at this point, be handled on a case-by-case basis.”
“It’s a significant accommodation,” said Jeff Portnoy, an experienced First Amendment attorney in Honolulu.
“I think it’s a very positive step that Judge Mollway has taken to permit the media to cover the proceedings in her courtroom using modern technology,” he said. “I think reporters should be able to use 21st century equipment so long as it doesn’t disrupt proceedings. I hope this is the beginning of a trend that leads to a formal rule.”
Brothers Mike and Alec Sou, owners of Aloun Farms in Kapolei, will stand trial Wednesday for allegedly keeping 44 Thai immigrants as indentured laborers.
Their trial is the first of two major upcoming human trafficking cases. Global Horizons, a Los Angeles-based labor contracting company, faces criminal charges separately in what prosecutors call the largest human trafficking case in U.S. history.
Presently, members of the public are not allowed to bring electronic devices into the federal courthouse.