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Sunday column preview: At the courthouse, strange rules and the citizens who break them

Sunday column preview: At the courthouse, strange rules and the citizens who break them

Wayne Hoffman
May 15, 2009
Wayne Hoffman
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May 15, 2009

This story has me bugged. I was not sure if I would write about it initially, but I really couldn't shake it. It's the story of Challis McAffee, who went to the Ada County Courthouse armed only with a video camera and an expectation that he could document government action. What happened next makes no sense, even though Ada County officials tried to explain it away.

Here's a small preview:

McAffee was at the courthouse with Chris Pentico, who was then still fighting his public property trespass conviction. McAffee was videotaping – making a record of Pentico’s courthouse experience. Their first and only stop was the first floor of the five-story building, to retrieve Pentico’s case file. McAffee said he was recording when several marshals raced toward him and demanded he stop. The marshals then ushered McAffee upstairs, insisted he erase his recording and handed him an order justifying their actions.

The order, signed in 2003 by Fourth District Administrative Judge Darla Williamson, says video and audio recording are prohibited on the fourth and fifth floors and portions of the second floor adjacent to the courtrooms. That’s fairly easy to understand. The order goes on to say that recording is banned anywhere in the courthouse that is “occupied or utilized by the 4th District Court.” Hence the action against McAffee. The first floor really is in the county’s domain, but a chunk of the work being done directly relates to judicial business – the handling ofcourt records and case files.

“It qualifies as an area utilized by the district court,” explained Larry Reiner, the 4th District Court administrator.

I believe there's no question that McAffee was subjected to rules that are next to impossible to follow and fully impossible to defend. I'll explain more when the column comes out on Sunday. But it is important to read because it's another example of the restrictions placed on law-abiding citizens.

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