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HOW TO BEHAVE IN COURT

List of contents

How is the entry regime of the courthouse established?
Right of a journalist to attend a court hearing
Right of a journalist to record court hearings
Can a journalist bring photography and video recording equipment inside a courthouse?
Right of a journalist for photography and video recording in a courthouse
Photography and video recording in the courtroom before the beginning of the hearing
Photography, video recording and broadcasting during the hearing
Rights of journalists in a closed hearing
Can a journalist be removed from the courtroom?
Appealing against illegal treatment of journalists
Where to complain about unlawful actions of a judge
Where to complain about unlawful actions of a bailiff

How is the entry regime of the courthouse established?

The entry regime of courthouses is stipulated by the rules of the courts: in courts of general jurisdiction in “Rules of Presence for visitors”, and in arbitrary courts in instructions or in provisions on organization of permit and intrafacility regime.

Those documents are based upon Orders of Plenary Sessions of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation, the “Model internal rules of the court” approved by the Order of the Judges Council of the Russian Federation №101 of 18.04.2003, and are drawn up in respective courts. Court visitation rules can also be found in Model rules of visitation of federal courts of general jurisdiction developed by the Judicial Department in cooperation with the Federal Bailiffs Service.

For example, paragraph 5.1 of the Model rules stipulates: “Visitors are allowed inside the courthouse during working hours if they provide their identity documents”. Thus, this provision is also applied to journalists. In some courts different restrictions of journalist activities are illegally imposed: special courthouse entry regimes are established, they are obliged to identify themselves to the presiding judge, or they need to be escorted by a press-secretary or other court officers.  All those and any other provisions which limit the rights of the journalist or specify an order of realization of their rights different than this of usual visitors, are invalid and do not require execution.

A list of documents which identify the court visitor is described in the model rules: passport or provisional identity document – form №2P, serviceman’s identity document, military identity card, general civil foreign passport, seaman’s passport, refugee identity card, certificate of asylum application processing, birth certificate issued by an authorized foreign authority, other documents, which prove identity according to the law of the Russian Federation or to the international conventions to which the Russian Federation is a party.

You will not be asked whether you are a journalist when you enter a courthouse. Usually you are only asked what the number of the courtroom you are going to is. Therefore we recommend you to enter the courthouse as if you were a usual visitor and to present one of the above-mentioned documents, a fortiori the law does not stipulate any special rights for journalists when they enter the courthouse.

RIGHT OF A JOURNALIST TO ATTEND A COURT HEARING

The Russian procedural legislation lays down the openness of the judicial process in all courts. A journalist, like any other citizen, has the right to attend public court hearings, this right cannot be in any way restricted in comparison with that of another visitor of the court. Attempts to separate journalists as a special discriminable group still occur in Russian courts.

The openness and publicity of the judicial process is also one of the forms of execution of the constitutional rights of citizens to freely search, acquire, produce and spread information by any legal means (paragraph 4 of article 29 of the Constitution, article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

Paragraph 23 of the Order of the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation №35 of 13.12.2012 “On the openness and the publicity of the judicial process and on access to information about court activity” contains important provisions for journalists. Firstly, failure to comply with publicity requirements during the trial is indicative of violations of procedural law and constitutes grounds for the reversal of judicial rulings, if such a violation may have caused or caused an illegal and/or unwarranted ruling or sentence. Secondly, “the intentional creation of conditions which limit or exclude access of personnel not participating in the trial including representatives of media editorial offices (journalists), to an open court hearing, or conditions which obstruct proper fixation, constitutes a violation of professional ethics”.

Right of a journalist to record court hearings

Written form. A journalist, like any other visitor, has the right to record a court hearing in writing, stenograph the trial and to produce drawings of the hearing. Typing is also considered a written form of recording, moreover, it is possible to post updates on an Internet blog via a computer (par.13 of the Order of the Plenary Session of the SCRF №35).

Audio recording. A journalist, like any other visitor, has the right to bring audio recording equipment inside the courtroom and conduct audio fixation of the trial. Actual procedural legislation stipulates that the personnel attending an open court hearing have the right to produce audio recordings of the hearing using audio recording equipment (par. 7 of art. 10 of the Civil Procedure Code of the Russian Federation – CPC). Similar provisions can also be found in the Code of Arbitration Procedure (CAP), in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP) and in the Administrative Procedure Code (APC). Thus, a journalist may bring audio recording equipment to the courtroom and record any open trial.  

Journalists should remember that the audio recording is to be conducted by them at their seat. A court hearing is not an interview when journalists put the microphones or dictaphones on the speaker’s table. While most judges are tolerant of the placement of such devices on their table, but it should be noted that this kind of equipment may distract the judge. It also requires certain handling, but the movement of the attendants around the courtroom is forbidden.

It is important to acknowledge that the current legislation does not provide for the obligation of those who record the trial in writing or using audio recording equipment to acquire permission or to notify the court about it. Photography, filming, radio, television and Internet broadcasts are an entirely different matter.

Can a journalist bring photography and video recording equipment inside a courthouse?

Free entry into the courthouse must be provided for journalists with photo and video equipment. This provision is contained in par.19 of the Order of the Plenary Session of the SCRF №35. The equipment can be inspected by the bailiffs during entry into the courthouse.

This same paragraph of the Order stipulates that personnel with the aforementioned equipment should have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the regulations on their use. As a matter of fact, free entrance into the courthouse with this equipment does not authorize its free use. There are courtrooms, service spaces and public areas inside the courthouse. Special regulations for the use of technical equipment are usually established for courtrooms and service spaces.

Nowadays it is difficult to imagine a citizen without a phone. It is possible to photograph and record videos even with a primitive phone. Thus, the provisions contained in the “Rules of Presence for visitors”, which stipulate the procedure of approval or advanced notification for bringing audio and video recording equipment, are not only morally outdated, but also contradict the current legislation.

Right of a journalist for photography and video recording in a courthouse

Different photography and video recording regimes are established for different rooms of the courthouse. The general rule for all regimes is: no visitor or journalist actions should obstruct the course of justice, prevent judges and officers of the court from exercising their functions, or disturb the peace inside the courthouse.

A courthouse has three main room types:

  • Service areas (judge’s office, deliberation room, court officers’ offices, archive, chancellery etc.)
  • Public access areas (corridors, stairs, staircases, rooms with informational kiosks, stands, and also the adjacent territories.
  • Courtrooms.

Regrettably, most Russian courthouses still don’t have a defined structural separation of the accessible area (courtrooms and public access spaces) from the service zone (service areas). Unacceptable situations frequently occur because of this, for example, when the escort takes the prisoners to the courtroom through public areas, and witnesses who have not yet been interviewed can listen to the hearing and talk with the already interviewed witnesses. Modern courthouses are usually designed in compliance with the respective requirements.

Photography and video recording equipment in service areas can be used only with permission of the President of the Court or the person deputizing them.

In public areas photography and video recording are not forbidden and do not require advanced permission. A journalist may film rooms, informational kiosks, stands, door signs etc. However, things get more complicated when the citizens visiting the court are in the frame. In this case art. 152.1 of the CC of the RF, which stipulates that “the publication and further use of the image of a citizen (including photographs, video recordings or pieces of art) depicting them” is possible only if they consent”, is applicable. This article also contains circumstances, in which consent is not required. In order to avoid conflicts a journalist should consult the above mentioned article of the CC and comply with it.

A journalist must take this provision into consideration when they interview people in public spaces of the courthouse. The interviewed must consent to be interviewed, and they should be warned when audio or video recordings of their interview are produced.

Photography and video recording in the courtroom before the beginning of the hearing

One should know the difference between the two terms: “courtroom” and “conduct of the trial”. The courtroom has a special status: on the one hand the principle of publicity and openness of the judicial process guarantees free access to the courtroom for any visitor, but from the moment the presiding judge enters the courtroom the trial begins and everything that happens in the courtroom is regulated by the procedural codes (CCP, CPC or the APC). During the process a journalist, not being a procedural figure, can not make statements or submit requests. The participants of the trial may obtain the judge’s permission for video recording, but this permission does not automatically allow the public to film. The judge may allow the lawyers to film, and deny the journalist’s request, or allow only protocol filming.

The actual practice is diverse, admittedly. Generally the judges are quite tolerant of the requests of the journalists who are already in the courtroom, and frequently resolve the issues of video recording during the preparatory phase of the hearing, despite this not being stipulated in the procedural law. Usually if a permission for a certain type of filming is granted, it is granted to everybody. However, there are situations when the judge, considering the limitations of the courtroom and the need to maintain order, may allow video recording, for example, to only one camera. This camera will probably belong to the company that filed a request for filming in advance.

There is one more aspect of the problem that should be noted. The Orders of the Plenary Sessions of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Arbitration, and other normative documents regulate the general rules of photography, audio and video recording of specifically the conduct of the trial, but do not contain provisions on recording in the courthouse or before the beginning of the trial. Since defendants, members of the jury, witnesses and other participants of the trial are in the courtroom before the beginning of the hearing, provisions which regulate or even forbid filming in the courtroom before the beginning of the trial without the judge’s advanced permission can be found in the “Rules” and “Instructions” of some courts. Different problems may occur because of this. The presence of such provisions in the courts’ documents can not mean that entrance to the courtroom with photo and video recording equipment is forbidden. These are different matters. There were situations when the court bailiffs interpreted those provisions broadly and prevented entrance into the courtroom with photo and video equipment without a written permission of the judge to produce recordings. This is a serious violation, which effectively obstructs journalist’s professional activities. In such situations the bailiff can only warn that filming is prohibited or ask to put the equipment away or, if possible, take custody of the equipment, but can not forbid the journalist to enter the courtroom.

In order to avoid confusion please carefully review the provisions of the “Rules” and “Instructions” about the use of photo and video equipment. These should be posted on the court’s website and are required to be presented at the entrance to the courthouse and, as mentioned earlier, before the security checkpoint.

In some courts, journalists, having not familiarized themselves with the aforementioned documents and/or not agreeing on the matters of video recording, got caught in a sort of “trap”: when they entered the courthouse with the equipment, they were forbidden to bring it into the courtroom, and it couldn’t be left unsupervised in the courthouse’s corridor as the bailiffs suggested. The journalist’s work was sabotaged. There were cases when such actions were intentionally taken against journalists to not let them inside the courtroom at all.

Bear in mind that although our legislation and practice regarding photo and video recording are ones of the most liberal in the world, but if having footage from the courtroom is vitally important, resolve any issues regarding photo and video recording in advance. If you for any reason lack the time to reach an agreement with the judge, try to promptly resolve the question with the court’s press secretary.

To obtain a permit a photography and recording permit one should file a written application (on a sheet belonging to their editorial office signed by the chief editor) addressed to the president of the court or to the judge presiding in a certain case, and request to record the hearing (the whole process, protocol recording, recording of the defendant’s final statement etc.) It is not necessary to explain the reasons, however, it is preferable. Public interest, “precedential value” or “high-profile nature” may be such a reason. Equipment specifications and requirements, like a connection to the courthouse electrical outlet (the forms can be found on our website).

PHOTOGRAPHY, VIDEO RECORDING AND BROADCASTING DURING THE HEARING

Procedural law stipulates that photo, video recording and broadcasting of a hearing  can only be conducted if the court permits it.

Journalists who want to record/broadcast a hearing should file an appropriate request with the judge in advance. The court will have time to prepare for the recording process: choose a capacious courtroom, designate a place for equipment installation etc. When the hearing has begun, and that happens when the judge takes his seat and adjourns the hearing, only the parties can submit petitions (including petitions to record the hearing). Thus, if there is no agreement with any party, editorial offices and journalists are advised to inform the court of their intention in advance in writing.

The Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation recommends the courts to assist journalists in photographing and recording, especially when a case attracts public interest. While deciding whether to allow recording, the judge also considers opinions of the participants, however, they are not at liberty to prohibit recording solely because of the subjective and unmotivated unwillingness of the participants to get “framed”.

Journalists should remember that the judge may not only permit or prohibit recording or broadcasting, but may also permit only protocol recording, designate a place where the recording should be conducted, specify its duration and stipulate other conditions of the process. In particular, the judge can permit recording, while prohibiting the recording of certain persons (for example, witnesses or members of the jury). The judge may also stop the recording at any moment or prohibit it, if they think that it obstructs the judicial process or that the journalists are violating the terms, upon which the recording had been permitted.

If your equipment is cumbersome and requires connection to the court’s electrical system, it can cause inconvenience in the courtroom, thus to avoid such conflicts, any issues regarding the use of such equipment should be solved with the court administration or press-service.

RIGHTS OF JOURNALISTS IN A CLOSED HEARING

As a general matter the judicial process in all courts is public and transparent, but procedural law provides for closed hearings either as part of a trial or over the whole course of a trial. Closed hearings may be scheduled in order to protect secrets protected by the law  and are permitted to be conducted only upon a motivated court (judge) decision. Without these judicial acts the judge is not at liberty to conduct a closed hearing. The Statement of reasons has to include the specific circumstances which restrict free access to the courtroom. Moreover, section 17 of Order of the plenary session of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation №16 of June 15 2010 “About the practice in the application of the Law of the Russian Federation “About the Media”” states that a judge may not base their decision on reasons not stipulated by federal laws.

Frequently, in order to avoid the presence of journalists, judges declare a closed hearing, but this status is never reflected in the protocol or in the introduction for the ruling.

If the decision to conduct a closed trial is taken by the judge during the scheduling phase, i.e. in advance, then personnel not participating in the process are not allowed in the courtroom. However, if a judge decides to close the hearing already in the courtroom, bailiffs can not obstruct the entrance in the courtroom, remove journalists from the court or tamper with the recording process before the announcement of the decision. After the decision has been announced, bailiffs must ensure that the journalists are the last to leave the courtroom. If a judge decides to close only a part of a trial, journalists are not allowed only during that closed part.

Only parties can challenge the decision to conduct a closed hearing; journalists, members of the public present in the courtroom are unable to do that.

A journalist or any other member of the public may file a complaint on an unmotivated closure of a trial/hearing addressed to the president of the court and/or to the qualification board of judges, however only after a trial is designated as closed. During the drafting of this complaint bear in mind that “presence of information regarding the private life of the participants in the case is not an absolute reason for the court to take the decision to close the trial”. Such information about public servants and political figures is not protected by the law, if its disclosure can positively affect public discussion of their work in their positions.

Conducting the trial in a closed hearing does not mean that the ruling is announced in a closed hearing. All court rulings, except those regarding the interests of minors (for example, in cases about adoption), have to be announced publicly. During the announcement of such rulings the introductive and resume parts are read aloud, while the reasoning may be read fully, partially or not be read at all.

CAN A JOURNALIST BE REMOVED FROM THE COURTROOM?

Any person attending a hearing may be removed from the courtroom if they disturb the peace. Any action that obstructs the judicial process constitutes a disturbance. It can be talking to your neighbor, moving around the courtroom during the hearing, verbal interruptions, wrangling with the judge, but it can also be photography and video recording without permission. Article 159 of the Сivil Procedure Code (CPC) stipulates that a participant disturbing the peace may get a warning from the presiding judge, and can be removed from the courtroom for the duration of the hearing. The court can also impose an administrative fine of up to one thousand roubles.

During criminal proceedings a person causing a disturbance may be removed from the courtroom without prior warning. Thus, article 258 of the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that a person disturbing the peace may be warned about the unacceptability of their actions or removed from the courtroom.

If during civil proceedings the presiding judge maintains order in the courtroom, and the bailiff, therefore, only carries out their orders, and the aforementioned article 258 of the CCP states that both the judge and the bailiff maintain order, and that the demands of the bailiff are mandatory for those present in the courtroom, journalists included, naturally.

APPEALING AGAINST ILLEGAL TREATMENT OF JOURNALISTS

Article 47 of the Media Act grants journalists broad rights. Bear in mind that the rights of journalists can be restricted only by federal law. Thus, all instructions, provisions and other secondary legislation adopted by ministries and agencies, by the Federal bailiff service (FSSP) and its territorial branches, Judicial department of the Supreme Court and its subdivisions, and also “Rules” and “Instructions” developed by courts, can not restrict the rights of the journalists.

In Order of the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation №35 it is highlighted that a journalist may not be obstructed in their professional activities, as they are fulfilling a civic duty.

Practice shows, however, that the journalists, rather than common spectators, frequently fall victim to various kinds of illegal actions. These wrongdoings are diverse in essence, in form and in the person committing them. The most common were mentioned earlier. Journalists must know their rights and be able to protect them directly the moment they were violated with one exception: a journalist should not argue with the judge about his and the judge’s rights, and must just carry out the judge’s order. After that they may file a complaint against the illegal actions of the judge.

You should complain about the judge only if he personally committed the actions or inaction in question. If the actions were committed by a bailiff, even if they claim that they executed the judge’s order, then a complaint against the bailiff should be filed.

WHERE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT UNLAWFUL ACTIONS OF A JUDGE

The website of the Higher Qualification Board of Judges states: “The citizens’ right to protect their rights is provided for in the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Protect in court. Protect by challenging the court’s decision. Protect by complaining about the judges”. As we can see, a complaint is one of the forms of protection of rights for citizens.
A statement (complaint) should be addressed to the president of the court. This complaint can be sent by registered letter, submitted via the chancellery, via the “Citizens’ messages” form on the court’s website or directly during a personal meeting with the president of the court. The complaint may be reported orally during the meeting.

It is necessary to describe when, where and under which circumstances the journalist’s rights were violated. Specific actions of the judge violating the journalist’s rights should also be outlined.

Because intentional creation of conditions restricting or eliminating access of journalists to open court hearings is indicative of a professional ethics violation by the judge, journalists may file a complaint with the Qualification board of judges.

Not only objects, but also materials demonstrating the violation of the Judge ethical code published in the press can become an object of the Qualification board review.

WHERE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT UNLAWFUL ACTIONS OF A BAILIFF

The majority of violations of journalist rights is connected with actions of court bailiffs. It is true, however bailiffs do not always commit those violations on their own initiative, quite frequently they only carry out the orders of the judge, who doesn’t want the journalist to be present during his trial. On various pretexts journalists are not allowed inside the courthouse or the courtroom, or require some additional permissions, letters, confirmations, and that is absolutely illegal.

Because it is the president of the court who organizes the work of the court, formulates internal rules of procedure and ensures their implementation, the first servant whom a complaint should be addressed is the president of the court.

Complaints on bailiffs should also be addressed to the head of the subdivision of the department of the Federal Bailiff Service (FSSP) where the bailiff works, or to the chief of the regional department of the FSSP. It can be done by registered letter or by scheduling a personal meeting with the administration.

FSSP and its departments have “Internet-offices”, which have a “Communication form”. Journalists can select “Type of message” (Complaint), “Topic of message” (About the actions of bailiffs maintaining the established procedure for judicial process”) and fill in the text of the message and/or attach a prepared text of the complaint. On all websites of the Bailiff Service (top right corner of any webpage) there is a helpline, which can be used to make a complaint. It is quite useful for a journalist to write that number down even before going to the court, as experience demonstrates, that it can be useful during the entry in the courthouse. When interacting with a bailiff it is useful to find out their last name by asking them to introduce themselves, and write it down.

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