Massachusetts Court to Broadcast Trials via Internet

Dennis Faas's picture

A district court in Massachusetts plans to use social media to improve public understanding of the legal process.

The experiment will take place in Quincy District Court, to the south of Boston. Unlike many courts where filming is allowed for use in news broadcasts, the plan here is to have a live Internet video broadcast whenever the court is in session.

Not only is the court going to allow court visitors to blog, update Facebook and post to Twitter during cases, but it's providing a WiFi connection and even setting up a special seating area for "citizen journalists."

Lawyers Fear Privacy Invasion

The project is very much an experiment, and there are already concerns over privacy. Although special work has been carried out to control acoustics in the courtroom, lawyers say they fear those using the technology could pick up audio from their private conversations with clients. (Source:

The presiding judge in the court has already said he retains the right to close down the web streaming and impose other restrictions in situations such as domestic abuse or sexual assault cases where the coverage could act as a deterrent to the victim testifying.

The court has also decided it won't film applications for restraining orders. That's partly to avoid inflaming what are commonly tense cases, and partly to avoid undue embarrassment either to the person requesting the order, or the proposed subject, particularly in cases where the restraining order is deemed unnecessary. (Source:

Jurors Kept Safely Off-Camera

The jury will also be kept out of the broadcast. The camera will be shut down completely during the jury selection process, and during the trials themselves the camera will be set up in a way that the jury does not appear on screen.

It's unclear what restrictions will be placed on web bloggers in referring to or potentially identifying jury members.

There's also the question of if and how jurors will be prevented from accessing the Internet during cases (particularly overnight), and whether bloggers will be barred from referring to anything that happens when the jury is sent out of the courtroom so that lawyers can discuss a legal point.

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