A couple of things happened this week that got me thinking about open access to the courts, its virtues, and the ways courts have to adapt to keep realizing that goal. The first, is I listened to an NPR story that got me all riled up (happens more than I care to admit) about cameras in the courtroom. Following closely on the heels of that, I got yelled at in a clerk’s office (well, strongly questioned and admonished) for scanning documents rather than having them copied. Harrumph.
On Tuesday Radio Boston had a great segment regarding the pros and cons of video cameras in Federal Courts. Arguing for cameras was the inimitable retired Federal Court Judge Nancy Gertner, who first came to my attention while overseeing the Joel Tenenbaum litigation in U.S. District Court here in Boston. Arguing against cameras was Boston College Law School professor David Olson. The thrust of Judge Gernter’s argument was that as a country we’ve committed to the idea of courts as a public forum, and given the state of technology (and the fact that many federal cases, like the Whitey Bulger trial currently, are already recorded and live streamed to overflow courtrooms for viewers and reporters), a failure to get cameras in the court room and give judges the option to use them means we’re really only paying lip service to the idea of a public courtroom without actually living up to that ideal. [Read more…]