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Doyle v. State

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 5, 2015

MICHAEL DOYLE Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF MAINE, et al., Defendant.

ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS

JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Concluding that the state of Maine, state of Maine Judicial Branch, and Justice John O’Neil, Jr. are immune from liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Court dismisses this action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural Background

On February 25, 2015, Michael Doyle filed a complaint in this Court, alleging that the Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s Administrative Order No. JB-05-15 “violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution under the Freedom of the Press clause and open courts provisions.” Pl.’s Compl. & Demand for Jury Trial (ECF No. 1) (Compl.). On March 18, 2015, the state of Maine, the state of Maine Judicial Branch, [1] and Justice John O’Neil, Jr.[2] (Defendants) filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint. Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss Compl. (ECF No. 10) (Defs.’ Mot.). Mr. Doyle responded on April 3, 2015. Pl.s’ Resp. to Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss (ECF No. 11) (Pl.s’ Resp.). The Defendants replied on April 16, 2015. Defs.’ Reply Mem. in Support of Mot. to Dismiss Compl. (ECF No. 12) (Defs.’ Reply).

II. THE ALLEGATIONS AND THEORIES OF ACTION IN THE COMPLAINT

A. The Factual Allegations

Mr. Doyle is a resident of Falmouth, Maine (Compl. ¶ 1), and is the editor and lead reporter for FalmouthToday. ME.[3] Id. ¶ 10. The state of Maine is, of course, a sovereign state. Id. ¶ 4(a). Justice John O’Neil, Jr. is a Justice of the Maine Superior Court. Id. ¶ 2. The state of Maine Judicial Branch is the entity that executes the judicial functions of the Maine state government. Id. ¶ 3. On January 16, 2015, Mr. Doyle made audio and video recordings of proceedings in York County Superior Court. Id. ¶ 10. This recording was approved before the proceeding by Justice O’Neil through a Media Notification-Requested Coverage of Court Proceeding form. Id.; Jan. Notification.

On February 5, 2015, Mr. Doyle again received permission from Justice O’Neil to record proceedings in York County Superior Court. Compl. ¶ 11-12; Feb. Notification. At this hearing, Justice O’Neil instructed Mr. Doyle to change his recording location, which Mr. Doyle found was too far from the speakers to be heard on playback.[4] Id. ¶ 12. Mr. Doyle responded to this change in location by writing Justice O’Neil a letter dated February 5, 2015, asking him to reconsider recording locations for the media by moving them back to the jury box. Id.; Compl. Attach. 4 Letter to J. O’Neil (ECF No. 1).

B. The Complaint

In the Complaint, Mr. Doyle alleges the Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s Administrative Order No. JB-05-15 (SJC Order) - which authorized Justice O’Neil to control if and how camera and audio recordings are made in the courtroom - “violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution under the Freedom of the Press clause and open courts provisions.”[5] Compl. ¶ 9. Mr. Doyle argues that the SJC Order “violates [his] Constitutional Rights to cover the courts” because it gives Maine state judges and justices the authority to decide whether a hearing will be recorded. Id. ¶ 13(a). In addition to his facial challenge of the SJC Order, Mr. Doyle further asserts that:

Defendant [Justice] O’Neil ordered the Plaintiff to record from a location that guaranteed little or no access to the proceedings. It was not possible to hear the majority of the questions of the lawyers and the answers of the witness on [February 5, 2015]. The net effect would be similar to watching the proceedings from behind a glass wall in a nearly sound proof room where only parts of what was being said could be heard . . . . The [SJC Order] giving the arbitrary control of where a member of the press can sit functionally violates Plaintiff’s Constitutional Rights.[6]

Id. ¶ 13(b). The Complaint proceeds to identify a number of additional issues with the SJC Order, such as: conflicts between how the rules apply to trial courts versus the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Id. ¶ 13(1), (6); the presiding judicial officers’ authority to locate recording equipment in the courtroom, Id. ¶ 13(3), (5); and a lack of clarity as to what constitute “appropriate circumstances” for methods of recording.[7]Id. ¶ 13(4). Finally, Mr. Doyle contends the SJC Order’s limitation on appellate review of judicial officer’s decision whether to allow coverage is “a violation of Due Process, another right guaranteed in the Constitution, and as such should be struck.” Id. ¶ 13(8).

As relief, Mr. Doyle seeks that the entire SJC Order “be struck in whole, ” that he be allowed “to video and audio record all court proceedings not barred by statute at a location that provides an audio that can be heard at playback, ” and that the SJC Order “be ...


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