67 Op. Att'y Gen. 250 (1978)
 
67 OAG 250  251

OPINION NO. OAG 75-78,

Wisconsin Attorney General Opinions

17 October 1978

Anti-Secrecy,
Coroner;
Open Meeting;
Tape Recordings;
Television;

The open meeting law does not apply to a
coroner's inquest.

ED HINSHAW, Media Coordinator
4th Judicial District
WTMJ AM-TV, WKTI TELTRON

You ask my opinion on two questions.

First, does the open meeting law,
Subchapter IV, Chapter 19, Stats.,
apply to coroner's inquests?

Second, if a coroner's inquest is an open
meeting, may the broadcast media cover the
inquest using camera and recording equipment?

The coroner is a county officer provided for
in Wisconsin Constitution Article VI,
Section 4.

The office of coroner is not a "governmental
body" as defined by Section 19.82(1), Stats.

Therefore. the open meeting law does not
apply to the office of coroner or to
inquests taken by the coroner.

Moreover, a coroner's inquest is not covered
by the Wisconsin Supreme Court's recent
authorization of television and radio
coverage in judicial proceedings.

Although an inquest is a quasi-judicial
proceeding,

Mohrhusen v. McCann,
62 Wis.2d 509, 512,
215 N.W.2d 560 (1974),

the coroner is not a judicial officer, and
the court's authorization is explicitly
confined to proceedings in courtrooms.

See In re Code of Ethics 83 Wis.2d XIX.

It follows that a coroner's inquest is not
required to be open under current law and
that there is no duty on the part of a
coroner to permit radio and television news
coverage by electronic or other means.

The decision whether to close an inquest
rests in the sound discretion of the coroner.

BCL:CDH

 
67 OAG 250  251