The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday January 26th

No more frivolity

A local judge is taking a strong step to give local reporters and people in other professions protection from frivolous charges and lawsuits.

Americans live in a litigious society. In one sense, this is a good thing - if people believe they have been wronged or mistreated, they can bring their grievances before the courts. But as has been proven, the impulse to file charges or suits against others can easily get out of hand.

Thankfully, a local judge has seen fit to protect people in certain occupations from unnecessary legal skirmishes. Chief District Court Judge Joe Buckner, who oversees magistrates in Orange and Chatham counties, is working to filter out frivolous charges brought against police officers, journalists, teachers and paramedics.

Buckner told The (Raleigh) News & Observer that he wants the cases of people in these professions to receive review from the office of District Attorney Carl Fox before magistrates can file misdemeanor warrants.

Such a review would mirror a system already in place in Durham. It should cut down on the number of needless or unreasonable charges that come to fruition, and it should eliminate the public embarrassment of those who don't deserve it.

According to the N&O, Buckner's proposed policy comes on the heels of a Durham case in which an N&O reporter's potential source charged him with making harassing phone calls.

To a certain degree, people shouldn't have to deal with being harassed, especially at home. For example, by allowing anyone to add his or her name to the federal do-not-call registry, the government gave people a much-needed shield against telemarketers. A person's life need not be inundated with and interrupted by a steady flow of sales pitches.

But it's up to judicial authorities to draw lines where they need to be drawn. Journalists must feel free to call whoever they think would make a good source, for instance.

If reporters hesitate to try to contact potential sources for fear of being saddled with criminal charges, it will hinder the ability of the press to do its duty of providing fair, objective and complete news coverage for the public.

It's reassuring to see local judges affording people in particular jobs the extra protection they need.

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