Photos, recordings restricted due to disruptions by citizen’s group
By James Tilson
MANTI—A local “citizens” group has prompted a change in what the district court allows to be recorded within its courthouses.
Stating they are “concerned about decorum and the protection of persons doing business within the courthouse” as well as “persons being photographed, filmed, or recorded without their knowledge or permission,” the judges of the 6th District Court signed an administrative order on Nov. 16 prohibiting photographing, filming or recording, except in designated areas in the courthouse, outside of courtrooms.
The order also said “no one may photograph, film, or record an individual without that individual’s express consent.”
The “common area” where photographing is permitted is the county commission meeting room in the basement. The room was chosen as it was a specific area that did not block access to courtrooms or county offices in other parts of the courthouse.
According to Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels, the changes in court policy came about due to actions of a group calling themselves the Sovereign Citizens.
“These people claim the state of Utah has no jurisdiction over them, and thus the court cannot impose any judgments on them,” Daniels said.
Apparently, members of the group have been congregating in courthouses, not only in the 6th District but all over Utah, and filming people around the courthouses and conducting what Daniels called “recruiting.”
The group’s claims, when they are in court, appear to center around their contention that they are not citizens of Utah, but instead “real persons” and they do not have a “contract” with the state of Utah or its courts.
However, as Daniels recounts, those claims have had no success with the judges. “Most of the time, the person is found in contempt of court and placed into custody. Or the trial will go on anyway,” he said.
Daniels said an individual in Mt. Pleasant by the name of Jacquelyn Smith appears to be the leader of the movement, although, according to Daniels, she is currently facing an eviction proceeding from her home.
Daniels stated emphatically the regular media in no way influenced the order. The regular coverage of court hearings and trials by the media is allowed through written requests and orders by the court, and has proceeded in an orderly fashion, he said. The order does not change in any way how the media cover or photograph court proceedings.