Jack McDonald, the counsel for the North Dakota Newspaper Association, provided everyone in the room with a packet, entitled All Things Legal, with the subtitle: A brief look at ND open meetings and open records laws & other sticky and damnable media legal issues.
McDonald’s session at the NDNA Annual Convention last week was extremely helpful, especially to someone who hasn’t been in North Dakota all that long.
As it turns out, it’s a lot harder to close a meeting in North Dakota than it is in Minnesota. In Minnesota, when you discuss personnel issues, you can generally close the meeting. So if you’re speaking about the performance of a county administrator, for example, you close the meeting first.
In North Dakota you can’t do that.
You can also bring cameras into the courtroom in North Dakota, and last I checked, Minnesota was examining doing that but hadn’t quite got there yet.
There are some restrictions, though–you can’t take pictures before the judge enters the courtroom, or after the judge leaves the courtroom. You can’t be disruptive–you can’t have a flash on, and you certainly can’t use a camera that makes a bunch of noise.
You also have to ask the judge in advance to allow you to bring a camera into the courtroom.