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Media coverage denial by Judge Drakulich prompts appeal to Nevada Supreme Court


Washoe County District Court Judge Kathleen Drakulich’s denial of a media coverage request this week is now being appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court. Our Nevada Judges, which documents court proceedings as a public service, has been covering the case of attorney Jaymie Mitchell, who is facing a criminal hit-and-run charge.

“This case does not involve anything sensitive at all,” Alex Falconi with Our Nevada Judges said. Falconi said he has covered Mitchell’s cases and hearings in multiple courts—including Drakulich’s courtroom. Mitchell is facing criminal charges in two other cases. The denial by Drakulich was for a jury trial scheduled for late October.

Neither Mitchell nor the district attorney opposed Falconi’s media request, but Drakulich said media coverage of the trial would detract from the proceedings.

“Electronic media coverage of the trial will impact Defendant’s right to a fair trial and will detract from the dignity of the proceedings,” she claimed. “Thus, electronic media coverage will only be permitted during opening & closing statements and taking of the verdict.”

State court rules require judges to provide specific reasons for media coverage denials since court proceedings are presumed open and public. Falconi, through his attorney, said Drakulich failed to follow those rules. He quickly appealed Drakulich’s decision by petitioning the state court of appeals.

“Judge Drakulich summarily denied camera access to the evidentiary portions of the jury trial, citing an impact on the trial and on the dignity of the proceedings,” Busby wrote. “Judge Drakulich made no particularized findings supporting the conclusions reached, nor was a hearing held, nor any evidence taken.

“By allowing camera access only to the opening and closing statements and the taking of the verdict, the District Court has effectively shielded the most substantive parts of the trial from public view,” he continued. “This limitation not only compromises public trust in the judicial process but also denies the public its right to fully understand the proceedings of a case that is of significant public concern.”

Falconi told This Is Reno most judges have had no issues with his group covering the Mitchell case. One exception is Sparks Justice Court Judge Kevin Higgins.

Late last year, Our Nevada Judges was similarly denied media coverage of the case in Higgins’ courtroom—until Falconi sued for access.

“The Court does not find that the Request is clear as to what Our Nevada Judges is asking for and therefore, cannot [sic] grant the Request at this time,” Higgins wrote at the time.

Higgins reversed his decision after being sued and after District Court Judge Connie Steinheimer overturned his media denial. Falconi said he believes Mitchell’s status as an attorney contributed to the denials of his media request.

Disclosure: Falconi’s attorney, Luke Busby, represents This Is Reno in public records cases. He did not provide comments or information for this story.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.