However the judge says she’s “allowing only one outlet to live blog from the courtroom” during the human trafficking trial of Mike and Alec Sou, owners of Aloun Farms.
Veteran court reporter Ken Kobayashi sent Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway a letter on behalf of the Star-Advertiser asking to “chat” with her about her decision to allow Civil Beat to live blog the trial of the brothers, who are accused of keeping 44 Thai workers as indentured laborers. The case is the first of two major human trafficking cases scheduled to be heard in Hawaii.
“We wanted to request similar access for the Star-Advertiser and other interested media,” Kobayashi wrote in a letter dated July 29, 2011.
Mollway on Tuesday answered Kobayashi and said that she only considered allowing Civil Beat to bring in a laptop because Civil Beat was the only news organization that asked.
“You have asked how I decided ‘to allow Civil Beat to transmit from a laptop during the court proceedings.’ Civil Beat submitted a written request to me to do that. It was the only media request I received concerning coverage of the Sou trial,” she wrote.
The judge goes on to note how she provided ample time for the issue to be discussed. She put Civil Beat’s letter in the electronic case file so that the attorneys in the case could see it.
Mollway also wrote that she entered an order “so that the public would know that the media request would be discussed at the hearing on July 25, 2011.”
At that hearing, she notes that there was an on-the-record discussion about the issue, including a conversation between the judge and this Civil Beat reporter. In that conversation, this reporter asked the judge to consider permitting more than one news organization to bring a laptop into court, but she did not like the idea.
One requirement is that everything transmitted from the courtroom be available for other news organizations to use.
Before any update is posted to Civil Beat’s live blog of the trial, it is sent via email to several news outlets including the Star-Advertiser, the Associated Press and KITV News, among others. This is what is known as a press pool, where one news organization provides what it observes to many news organizations for use as they see fit.
She reiterated her order limited the laptop access to just one reporter because “monitoring an unlimited number of press members would raise concerns for the United States Marshals Service.”
“For the Sou trial, I had only one request before me at the time of the hearing so I did not face the issue of how to handle multiple requests. It might be that the rule should be ‘first come, first served,'” she wrote.
“I realize that press outlets may now begin to clamor for future live blogging opportunities and may want a universal practice, but at this point things will be decided on a judge-by-judge and case-by-case basis.”
Read the Star-Advertiser’s letter to Judge Mollway and her response: