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Local Journalist Files Lawsuit Challenging Court Rules Prohibiting Audio Recording In Bail Hearings

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Pennsylvania is a state that doesn't allow the public to record audio and video in its courtrooms, but one local journalist is trying to change that.

Charles Kelly is one of the attorneys representing Pittsburgh-based journalist Matt Stroud in this case.

Stroud is with the newsmagazine Postindustrial. Stroud filed the lawsuit against the Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen and several magisterial district judges.

He's challenging the constitutionality of court rules that prohibit audio recordings in bail hearings.

Kelly said these types of hearings are significant, especially for people who don't have a lot of money and end up being stuck in jail because they can't pay bail, and may end up in a bind -- even losing a job.

"In these cases, there is no written transcript of any sort. There is nothing the public can go back to, to review," said attorney Charles Kelly.

Kelly said people have a right to record the activities of public officials. He said it's about transparency.

"Because that actually enhances, advises and improves public discourse at which is the highest rung of the first amendment," said Kelly.

After learning about the lawsuit, the sheriff and district judges both filed motions.

The sheriff stated that he needs to do what the court tells him to do and the judges said the citizens have access to courtrooms already.

"The only thing that matters here is a citizen has access to a courtroom and that right is well established and we don't know what they're complaining about," said Kelly.

On Wednesday, the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press filed a brief in response to the motions. They are urging the court to deny these motions and proceed with the case.

As for what's next, the judge will decide whether or not to dismiss the case. That could take up to 90 days.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania courts and Sheriff Mullen couldn't comment on the lawsuit since it's pending.

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