Judges Discuss Courtroom Coverage
Three Iowa judges laid down the law in Associate Professor Leo Eko’s Legal Issues in Mass Communication class in a panel discussion on April 13.
The panel of judges, which has become a staple for the class every semester, consisted of Judge John Miller of the 8th District, Judge Sean McPartland (B.A. 1977) of the 6th District and Judge Thomas Bower of the 1st District.
The panel originally began due to concern from the Judges Association that the media lacked adequate knowledge about how the legal system works. The judge’s panel gives students the chance to get a closer look at the judicial system.
“We have a partnership between the J-MC School and the Iowa Judges Association,” Eko said. “It enables our students to get a better idea of how to cover courtroom topics.”
The judges responded to prepared scenarios dealing with current legal issues such as “sexting”, the use of hidden and cell phone cameras and the Iowa judicial system’s appointment and retention of judges.
Answers consisted of the judge’s personal opinions along with case examples relating to the topics. The judges agreed that many of the topics are still controversial and there aren’t cut-and-dry answers for all scenarios.
“The legislatures are still going to have to figure a lot of these things out.” McPartland said.
When discussing the judicial system’s appointment and retention of judges, Bower pointed out that the retention elections are the check-and-balance for them. He also acknowledged the important role that journalists play in providing information on the judges and elections.
“The nice thing that the press has done is that they try and get the information out,” Bower said. “The press is starting to play a bigger role, which helps to make us more transparent.”
The partnership between the Judges Association and the J-MC School encourages a close understanding between journalists and the legal issues that they cover in order to ensure the fair and accurate reporting that The University of Iowa J-MC School strives to promote.