Posted Aug 09, 2012 01:43 pm CDT
A Utah judge has overturned a contempt citation for a woman sentenced to jail for recording court proceedings.
Judge Claudia Laycock said the contempt order by Justice Court Judge Keith Stoney of Saratoga Springs violated the woman’s right to due process, the Deseret News reports. Stoney had sentenced Elaine Damron to five days in jail for the cell phone recording, but suspended all but 24 hours of the sentence. Damron was in court to support her son, who was facing misdemeanor charges after his dog got loose.
Damron admitted recording the hearing until she was told to stop, but said she didn’t do it a second time. Witnesses who spoke without being sworn in said Damron made two recordings. The confiscated phone wasn’t checked until after Damron went to jail; it showed just one recording had been made.
“Judge Stoney’s error was egregious and its consequences were severe,” Laycock wrote. The recording was not made in the judge’s “immediate view and presence” as required by statute, she wrote.
An opinion columnist writing for the Deseret News calls Laycock’s opinion “a blistering rebuke of Stoney.” The story says justice courts “are laws unto themselves with little oversight, often serving as local cash cows.” The Utah legislature passed a bill after the Damron incident requiring recording systems in all justice courts.
In a separate case, Stoney is appealing a reprimand issued in the belief that he entered a $10,000 cash-only warrant for a woman accused of a minor traffic violation because she was rude to his clerks.