Jefferson Banner - Opinion
Wal-Mart in Jefferson

After being refused to be allowed to record the hearing of the Coalition's request for restraining order, I wrote the following complaint to the judge.

- John Foust, Webmaster

The Honorable Judge Ullsvik
Jefferson County Courthouse
Jefferson, Wisconsin 53549

November 15, 2005

Dear Judge Ullsvik,

I respectfully disagree with your decision to deny my prior request to use a camera in your courtroom this afternoon during the injunction hearing by the Coalition for a Better Jefferson. I urge you to reconsider your policy in case I renew my request in the future.

I believe that a web-based journalist can be considered “news media” under the Supreme Court Rules, Chapter 61. As I explained, I intended to take photographs and make recordings in order to accurately represent these proceedings to the readers of my web.

Journalists need not be licensed in these United States, nor must we have a boss to hold us accountable, as you suggested today. Thomas Paine and Ben Franklin could not be fired, nor could any self-employed newspaper publisher in any small town.

The plaintiff and the defendant had no objection to media coverage. As City Attorney Ben Brantmeier pointed out to you today, in the past he and the City have agreed that my web qualified as “media” under the provisions of Wis. Stat. 938.396(1), and I believe I have acted honorably and responsibly with that access to police blotter records. I have worked in magazine, newspaper and book journalism, paid and unpaid, for more than twenty years.

Since early 1999, my web site has been providing community information, news and opinion. This alone should be sufficient under Supreme Court Rule 61.12. It also matches the dictionary definition.
I encourage you to visit and examine the Jefferson Banner section. I hope that you will see that my web site contains news and opinion that is uniquely valuable to this community. My information is persistent, unlike a newspaper that is soon discarded, or a television or radio broadcast that disappears instantly unless recorded. Citizens can turn to my web for an extensive historical record of events such as this Wal-Mart controversy in Jefferson.

Your deliberations on whether to grant my request and the similar request of Daily Union reporter Ryan Whisner consumed nearly 25 minutes of the hour allotted to this petition. I would hope that in the future, judges would not need so much time to decide to allow the media to cover a simple civil hearing. The shortage of time was a disservice to the City, the plaintiff, and the assembled public. I urge you to clarify your policy with Jefferson County’s Media Coordinator, as per Supreme Court Rule 61.02.

I would be glad to adhere to any constraints on media coverage within your courtroom, such as prohibitions against flash photography, photographing the public or the jury, and honoring other court requests for privacy.


John J. Foust
235 South Main Street
Jefferson, WI 53549
(920) 674-5200

CC: Judge William F. Hue, Judge Jacqueline Rohloff Erwin, Judge Randy Koschnick, Media Coordinator Tom Schultz