Granite Staters Divided After Man Rolls Video Inside Rochester, NH Court House
There was some massive division last week after Seth Willis, who is the face of the Observe New England YouTube channel, posted a video while "taking care of personal business" at the Rochester Court House in Rochester, New Hampshire. Seth posted a video of what he referred to as a "first amendment audit" while at the Court House to the You KNOW you're from Rochester, NH if you... group on Facebook and was met with a very clear division.
First, the background of the whole issue. In Seth's "first amendment audit" (and for clarification, the quotations are merely quoting what Seth called it, not meant with any bit of snark or defiance), he was challenging a sign that is posted on the door leading from the front steps of the Court House inside that prohibits any video or audio recording without authorization.
As clearly shown, the sign references NH Circuit Court Administrative Court Order Rule 54, which is listed on the Rules of the Supreme Court of the State of New Hampshire website with the heading of "Administrative Judges And Administrative Council." Upon looking into Rule 54, all that is really listed is the duties of the Judge and the Council, but no real in-depth messaging about video and/or audio recording inside the Court House; however, that said, there are some mentions of compliance of employees and members of the Council with applicable court rules and administrative orders, so perhaps that is one, but just not listed verbatim as such.
That said, when looking specifically at NH Circuit Court Order 2011-17, it states:
"No cameras or audio equipment may be used in the lobby or public, non-courtroom, area of any courthouse, except when the presiding judge after consultation with the Administrative Judge and the appropriate office responsible for providing security at the courthouse, determines that a designated staging area is appropriate under the circumstances of a given case."
That said, Seth went inside the Court House to the front desk while filming, which was met with immediate opposition from the front desk security, who went ahead and called the Rochester Police Department upon multiple requests for Seth to stop filming. To Seth's credit, he was asking for a better explanation and copy of the above-mentioned Circuit Court Order and Supreme Court Rule but was met with silence from the clearly annoyed security.
As promised, and while recorded on video still, security called the Rochester Police Department, who showed up and, after Seth had taken care of his "personal business" (again, strictly quoting him, no snark implied), calmly spoke to him outside of the Court House. The whole conversation was actually very calm and not at all a heated exchange or an attempt at one-upmanship -- so, basically the opposite of every Facebook post ever.
Which side of the fence to you fall on after having all the info and the video itself? Was Seth out of line to record inside of the Court House lobby, despite what the sign and Circuit Court Order 2011-17 mention, or was he within his rights and met with un-needed agitation and resistance from the Court House Security Officers? As mentioned above, it's pretty much a 50/50 split in the comments section of Seth's post in the aforementioned Rochester Facebook group.