Saturday, January 24, 2009

Editorial: Tribal Court To Consider Motion Requesting Closing Court And Sealing File In Brokenwing Free Press Case

Feather News

The Mohegan Tribal Court file on Brokenwing's case has been temporarily sealed pending a hearing next Friday, January 30 in the Tribal meeting room.

Brokenwing, is asserting that a good standing complaint made against him by two Tribal Councilors, based on his writings on Brokenwing Editorials, violates his freedom of speech and is also asking the court to rule on the constitutionality of the good standing process.

The defendants in the case have filed a motion to close courtroom proceedings but before the Judge will consider that motion, the Judge will seek public comment at next Friday's hearing. It is uncommon for courtrooms to be closed and civil case files sealed and is only done under extraordinary circumstances.

The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday.

Judicial systems recognize the value of the press and the public in ensuring that proceedings are transparent. According to a landmark opinion, in the case of Westmoreland v. Columbia Broadcasting System in which the plaintiff argued that television cameras should not be permitted in the courtroom, a federal court ruled that public access to trials "enhances the quality and safeguards the integrity of the factfinding process" while permitting "the public to participate in and serve as a check upon the judicial process - an essential component in our structure of self government."

Two darlings of journalism - information freedoms and press freedoms - have been under siege at Mohegan lately so it should not come as a surprise that the outside press will likely be reporting about the situation on the Reservation.

Until this week, the Feather News has been online for a year-and-a-half without the outside local press referring to website. That is the way we like it to be but if this situation is reported on in the outside press, it will be the fault of the Tribal Council.

It seems unfair that freedoms otherwise enoyed by the citizens of the Mohegan Tribe are being targeted by the Tribe's public officials. The Tribe would be better served by having Tribal Councilors focus on business issues and a more open government than spending energy making laws and filing complaints that, among other things, restricts independent news disseminated by individual Tribal members.

The citizens of the Tribe deserve to have their Tribal officials conduct themselves like leaders of a dynamic sovereign nation and not like autocratic family bosses ordering their family members around.

The citizens deserve better.