SJC Hearing Thursday For OpenCourt
A judge of the highest court in Massachusetts will hear arguments tomorrow (Thursday) for and against whether the state should prevent the operators of a media project from recording courtroom proceedings that are otherwise open to the public.
OpenCourt is a pilot project of WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station, designed to apply new approaches to coverage and technology in an effort to cultivate greater transparency in the American justice system. Among other initiatives, OpenCourt has been videostreaming live out of Quincy District Court, one of the busiest district courts in the state, since May 2011.
A hearing before Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margot Botsford is scheduled for 4 p.m. this Thursday, August 9, in the Holmes Courtroom of the John Adams Courthouse in Boston.
This is the second time since OpenCourt’s launch in May of 2011 that a Justice of the SJC has been asked to decide whether to limit the scope of the project or cease its operation altogether. In March of this year in a ruling on the Commonwealth vs. Barnes case, Judge Botsford wrote on behalf of the full court that OpenCourt could continue operating and that movements by the state to redact footage legally recorded in a public courtroom would be a violation of First Amendment press protections.
Since then, OpenCourt had moved forward with plans to start recording and livestreaming from Courtroom A at the Quincy District Court. Once a date was set to begin coverage on July 16, the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) joined Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s office in filing petitions for relief against Quincy District Court justices who would allow OpenCourt to record hearings in Courtroom A.
Tomorrow’s hearing includes four parties. The defendants are justices of the Quincy District Court, as represented by a Special Assistant to the Attorney General (SAAG). The plaintiffs are the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office and CPCS, who each filed separate petitions for relief (SJ-2012-0306 and SJ-2012-0308). WBUR/OpenCourt is an intervenor in the case.
The Patriot Ledger wrote an editorial last week decrying District Attorney Michael Morrissey for his efforts to stymie OpenCourt’s operation.