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In any TN court, lawyer has right to make audio file; you, too, have right to record

Rex Sparks, former prosecutor and longtime Chattanooga attorney, orders a brew at Cadence Coffee near the courthouse in Chattanooga. (Photo David Tulis)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Tuesday, May 14, 2024 – Tennessee court clerks and judges lie to you when they say that you cannot bring a recording device into the courthouse for your case.

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio Network

Some rural courts absolutely prohibit the citizens from bringing cell phones or recording devices into the court building. Judges and lawyers don’t want records made, and want to pile all disadvantage upon the ordinary member of the public.

This is an illegal prohibition against your right to record your case to aid your making notes of the proceedings.

Rule 10 of the code of judicial conduct prohibits prejudice by the judges against defendants and plaintiffs who are present without an attorney. Yes, people are called pro se or in persona propria litigants if they fight without attorney aid or representation.

‘Aid to making notes’

Specifically, the judicial prohibits bias against do-it-yourselfers who are pro se, and the law is not just in the ethics rule, but in the Tennessee code itself.

It is lawful for attorneys representing parties in proceedings in any of the courts of this state to use tape recorders as an aid in making notes of the proceedings.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-9-104

Just think for a second, given the language of this law. If the law allows attorneys representing parties to have recording devices, it certainly allows the member of the public clients to have one too. If the attorney, an agent, has a recording device, a principal can use one, especially if that principal is there as plaintiff or defendant, alone, as himself or herself, or as one’s own attorney.

Says David Allen Carmichael, a pro se activist with a Christian ministry like mine, “The trick to recording in court is to say, ‘I move the court to permit my recording of the proceedings, as of right pursuant to (statute). It is not automatic due to the separation of powers. You have to demand the court act upon the right. There may be a timely notice requirement. I saw the court refuse a recording. After thinking about it, I realized the solution was to make a motion.”

Construing law to include unaided defendants

A person without an attorney effectively represents himself and is his own attorney. The right to carry a recording device is yours whether you are pro se (for yourself, acting for yourself) or if you are acting in persona Priya which is acting as yourself as your natural person, man or woman. Pro se suggests two you’s. One you acts on behalf of the other, as if principal and agent.

Any judge or court clerk who says we forbid recording devices by the citizens can be the object of a complaint with judicial watchdog.

Hamilton County’s rule 4(c) misleadingly says all phones “must be turned off and shall not be utilized by anyone except attorneys and court personnel as necessary. Upon notice to the presiding judge, audio recordings are permitted by attorneys as authorized” by the law cited above.

This statement is prejudicial to the public’s true understanding about the rights of its members, and is an institutional bias and closure against the citizenry, especially the poor, for whom court is bewildering and confusing.

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