Judge Rules- No ‘ Right to Record’ State Senate Meetings
July 1, 2015

(AP) — A Missouri judge dismissed Tuesday an advocacy group’s lawsuit that challenged restrictions on filming Missouri Senate committee meetings.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem dismissed the petition brought by Progress Missouri, which claimed decisions by Senate committee chairmen to prohibit filming by the group violates the state’s open meetings law. The liberal advocacy group also said the prohibition infringes on its freedom of speech and association.

The state’s Sunshine Law allows public bodies to establish guidelines on recording to minimize disruption, but the lawsuit said Progress Missouri’s filming wouldn’t have been disruptive. Senate rules state that cameras may be allowed with the permission of the committee chairman “as long as they do not prove disruptive to the decorum of the committee.”

The attorney general’s office, which represented the Senate, wanted the case dismissed because the Missouri Constitution gives the Senate the authority “to determine the rules of its own proceedings,” including rules on recording meetings.

Beetem agreed, saying the Senate was within its constitutional powers to establish its own rules that don’t violate other provisions. Beetem also said a state legislature’s authority to set up rules for its own proceedings “is a political question not subject to judicial review.”

“The inquiry ends here,” Beetem wrote in the nine-page decision.

The judge also said there is no constitutional right to record open public meetings.

Sean Soendker Nicholson, executive director of Progress Missouri, vowed to “continue this fight.”

“We don’t think that the Senate should be able to ignore the Sunshine Law just because they find it inconvenient,” he said.

Several senators, including Senate Leader Tom Dempsey and Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard, said in a joint statement they were pleased with the judge’s decision.