No cameras in Keene court

By William R. Toler

A New Hampshire judge has banned the use of cameras and other recording equipment in the Cheshire County.

According to FreeKeene.com, an administrative judge from the Circuit Court issued an “unsigned” order Friday that places a blanket ban on all recording devices “at any time in the court’s lobby or anywhere in the public area of the court’s leased premises[.]“  The order was apparently written by Edwin Kelly of the New Hampshire Circuit Court and approved by Tina L. Nadeau, Chief Justice of New Hampshire Superior Court. “Specifically, this Order is meant to apply to the facts and circumstances at the district division of the 8th Circuit in Keene.”

Keene has recently become a haven for libertarian activists, an effort of the Free State Project. Recently Slate.com featured the Free Staters involved in a slew of civil disobedience activities. From public pot parties to “Topless Tuesdays“, activists often break minor laws in order to protest them.

Many of them would be considered anarchists, but prefer to be called voluntaryists (a growing movement among younger libertarians), and often incorporate “Voluntaryist” or “Freeman” into their names. They refer to jail as “a cage” and judges as “men in robes” and refuse to recognize the authority of “men with badges.” And they record everything to be used as evidence in their defense and to shed light on abuses of power.

One activist was recently jailed and charged with contempt for refusing to remove his hat in court. (However, there is a picture of a police officer in the courthouse with a hat.) Following the contempt charge, activist Ademo Freeman recorded Judge Edward Burke walking into the courthouse. On the video, Freeman questions the judge’s reasoning. The judge doesn’t answer. When he reaches the door at the top of the stairs he tells the bailiff, “This person is threatening me about decisions I just made.” Any clear observer can see there was no threat. Freeman was charged, however, with “improper influence.”

Tragically, last month Thomas Ball set himself on fire in front of the courthouse. After reading his “Last Statement,” it was apparent he had been a victim of the double standards of the judicial system that pushed him over the edge.

It is apparently these actions that led to the order. In it, the judge (or man in a robe, if you prefer) states:

“In recent months certain members of the public have caused disruptions of the court’s ability to conduct business in Keene. In addition to their refusal to abide by court rules related to the conduct of trials and conduct in the courtroom in general, these members of the public have also congregated in the court’s lobby for extended periods of time making it difficult for other members of the public to conduct business with the court and, in particular, creating conditions and disturbances which have obstructed court staff from performing their duties in an orderly way. Additionally, these members of the public have, on occasion, accosted the presiding judge as he enters and leaves the building in which the court is housed, creating an atmosphere of hostility and intimidation and a legitimate fear for the safety and well-being of the judicial and nonjudicial staff at this court.”

You can apply for permission, however. According to the order: “all requests to bring cameras, broadcasting equipment and recording devices into the courthouse housing the 8th Circuit District Division shall be made in writing on a form prescribed by the court, no later thao [sic] 48 hours prior to the court hearing sought to be recorded[.]

So much for “Live Free or Die.”

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