Courtroom 2.0

May 4th, 2011

The Quincy District Court in Massachusetts has joined the 21st century. The Court will live-stream video of court proceedings, and encourage live-bloggers and tweeters to use social media to report about court cases. From AP:

The business of a bustling courtroom in Quincy District Court began streaming live over the Web for anyone to see. The courtroom, which usually does not allow reporters to use even computers, will now welcome laptops, iPads and smartphones, and will encourage live blogging, Tweeting and Facebooking.

It’s all part of an experiment court officials around the country hope will help establish suggested guidelines for courts as they grapple with how to use digital technology and how to accommodate citizen journalists and bloggers.

The pilot project in Quincy, just south of Boston, is believed to be one of the broadest experiments in the country for using new media in the courts. While many states allow cameras in the courtroom and some stream supreme court arguments online, the Quincy project is unusual because it will continuously stream live, unedited court proceedings all day. The courtroom will be unusually welcoming to bloggers and citizen journalists with a special seating section and Wi-Fi connection.

Not all proceedings will be streamed–cases involving restraining orders,sexual abuse, ┬áminors, and any other matter a judge deems inappropriate will be cut-off.

Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said he is concerned that the cameras could discourage victims of domestic violence or stalking from going to court to seek protections and that information about gang investigations, including witness identifications, could become public.

“In certain delicate cases, the court is going to have to exercise the appropriate discretion and balance that with the public’s right to know,” Morrissey said.

Judge Mark Coven, Quincy District Court’s presiding judge, said he has ultimate control over the camera and could decide to shut it off at certain times, such as when sexual assault or domestic violence cases are being heard, or could move those hearings to another courtroom.

“We wanted to shape the project in a way that balances the public’s right to know with the right to privacy and the right to a fair hearing for anyone who comes before the court,” Coven said.

Let’s see how this works out.