Tennessee’s courts have switched to “black site” operations in a Feb. 1 directive designed to prevent press scrutiny of judicial meetings where policy is set, bills are drafted and members of the public are smeared.
After it had this reporter arrested in Franklin on Nov. 6, 2021, the court system led by chief justice Roger Page slammed security gates around its secretive judicial conferences to bar future breaches.
“The safety and security of conference attendees, staff, and invited speakers during conferences is of paramount importance,” the justice says in the two-page lockdown directive.
The AOC and the department of safety and homeland security “will implement appropriate security protocols.”
Key in the policy: removal of all details about gatherings of the six conferences from public view.
“Conferences are not open meetings. Only conference attendees, invited speakers, and staff will be permitted to enter the physical conference spaces or receive virtual access links.” All parties involved in the events “shall maintain the confidentiality of the dates, physical location, and/or link to virtual access, speaker documents, and other conference materials.”
The AOC is ditching the use of city officers for security. Troopers from the highway patrol, serving the executive branch of state government and Gov. Bill Lee, will stand guard and arrest intruders.
Chief justice Roger Page ordained the arrest of this reporter and the blocking of the newsgathering labors of NoogaRadio 96.9 FM midstate bureau chief Christopher Sapp on Nov. 6, 2021, at the Embassy Suites at Cool Springs hotel in Franklin.
The agency connived with hotel management to allege criminal trespass, a misdemeanor. General sessions judge M.T. Taylor of Williamson County threw out the charge as lacking probable cause. My arrest without a warrant was a crime, a knowing and intentional violation of Tenn. Code Ann. 40-7-103 by officer William Orange of city of Franklin, to whom I gave oral notice about the law.
It was also a conspiracy, since Justice Page and his subordinates know that the constitution in Art. 1, sect. 19, forbids government in secret and gives members of the press full access to governmental doings. So does the open meetings act.
The general assembly hereby declares it to be the policy of this state that the formation of public policy and decisions is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.
To the policy by Justice Page and his new AOC head, Michelle J. Long, bureau chief Sapp says “Nope!”
The court’s new and unconstitutional AOC administrative education policy 3.04 makes it abundantly clear to conference attendees that this information is regarded as “confidential” and distribution of the same to the public or members of the press is strictly prohibited. As such, the AOC as well as the chief justice has circled their wagons, doubled-down, and dug-in-their-heels in a concerted effort to continue holding these meetings in secret without public notice, transparency, or public participation as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-44-103. This policy is a blatant and hypocritical repudiation of TN Const., Article I § 19 and the Open Meetings Act by the self-described “guardians” of our constitution and laws.