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ACLU of Utah Challenges Committee’s Decision
to Ban Videotaping of Its Public Meetings
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 3, 2002
SALT LAKE CITY – In its reply memo filed today in the case Curtis v. Utah State Child Support Guidelines and Advisory Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah challenged the Utah State Child Support Guidelines Advisory Committee’s reasoning supporting its decision to ban videotaping of its public meetings.
Since last May, Rick Curtis and other members of FOCUS, an organization concerned with child support and custody laws, have been prohibiting from videotaping the advisory committee’s monthly meetings. Alleging violations of Utah’s open and public meetings law, which specifically allows members of the public to record open meetings, the ACLU of Utah filed a complaint on behalf of Curtis and FOCUS last July.
The lawsuit resulted in little explanation for the advisory committee’s actions. In its reply memo today, the ACLU of Utah asked that the court allow Curtis and other FOCUS members to videotape the proceedings.
ACLU of Utah staff attorney Janelle Eurick stated that while the committee’s actions may seem like a small violation of the open and public meetings law, “something much larger is at stake in this case, namely the admirable goal for which the law was adopted of ensuring that public bodies conduct their actions and deliberations openly and with accountability to the public.”
Curtis, the lead plaintiff in the case, hopes the issue will be successfully resolved soon. “I’ve found that videotaping is the most accurate way to share the committee’s proceedings with FOCUS members who were not able to attend a meeting, and to develop appropriate responses to committee proposals.”
In today’s reply brief, the ACLU of Utah argues that the word “record” should be construed to include videotaping, that videotaping does not change the nature of a public meeting, that under the open meetings act, plaintiffs have a right to record a meeting in a non-disruptive fashion, and that videotaping is not disruptive.
“The very idea of our participatory democracy depends upon an informed and active citizenry,” stated Eurick. “In our age of technology, videotaping has become an important tool for advocates like Rick Curtis.”
The case is currently in front of Judge Leslie Lewis in the Third District Court.