Bench Bar Press Committee
The Bench-Bar-Press Committee of Washington (BBP) was formed in 1963 to foster better understanding and working relationships between judges, lawyers and journalists who cover legal issues and courtroom stories. The mission of the Committee is to seek to accommodate, as much as possible, the tensions between the constitutional values of "free press" and "fair trial" through educational events and relationship building.
The BBP Committee is chaired by the Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court and includes representatives from the legal profession, judiciary, law enforcement and the news media. The committee meets as a whole once or twice each year to review the state of relations between the various interested groups and to plan educational and other activities. Subcommittees of volunteers are organized on an ad hoc basis to plan and execute the educational and other events.
Since its creation in 1963, the BBP Committee has undertaken several important projects. It was the catalyst in opening up courtrooms to broadcast and still camera coverage in 1976. The Committee conducted a lengthy study and camera coverage of an actual criminal trial that was produced as though it were a television news story. The Washington State Supreme Court was so impressed with the result that it unanimously adopted a rule allowing cameras in all Washington state courtrooms on a permanent basis. At the time, Washington was only the second state in the nation to allow cameras in the courtroom.
The Committee has developed a "Bench-Bar-Press Statement of Principles" which are not binding, but provide practical guidance on the relationships between judges, lawyers and the press, and are intended to promote a better working relationship between the bench, bar and news media.
A special subcommittee of the Bench-Bar-Press Committee, the Liaison Committee ("Fire Brigade"), has been created to help sort out conflicts of courtroom coverage. The Fire Brigade can speak with, or mediate on behalf of, any lawyer, judge or journalist facing a "free press/fair trial" issue. The Fire Brigade has a strong record of successfully suggesting ways that fair trial concerns can be resolved while preserving free press rights and public access to the judicial process.
The Committee also has presented educational seminars and open discussion sessions from time to time, focusing on court coverage issues, which give judges, lawyers and journalists the opportunity to share views and develop open communication with each other.
"New rule means courtroom cameras will get their day in court",
Press and courts working together benefits all
High Profile Cases - Free Press and Fair Trial
Statement of Principles
Washington's 'Fire Brigade'
Search Warrants -- A Sensitive Bench, Bar, Press Issue
Bench-Bar-Press Liaison Committee
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