It is a fundamental principle of the United States legal system that courts should be open to the public. This principle is widely regarded as more aspirational than factual, because of numerous practical barriers to courtroom access -- not the least of which is that most of us do not have the time or ability to travel to the court to witness proceedings in person. While the news media report on judicial proceedings, their resources are limited; as a result, coverage is normally focused on specific cases of particular interest. Moreover, audiovisual recording of judicial activity is sporadic due to a complicated patchwork of largely discretionary rules about allowing cameras in the courtroom.
OpenCourt, an experimental project launched on May 2, 2011, by WBUR, Boston's NPR news station, seeks to change all of that. With the cooperation of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (the highest court in the Commonwealth) and the Massachusetts District Court (a department of the Massachusetts Trial Court), the OpenCourt project has started streaming live video and audio of the proceedings in the First Session of Quincy District Court. OpenCourt also provides WiFi access to journalists and bloggers so that they can report live from the courtroom.
The goal of the OpenCourt project is to develop a set of standards and best practices for live access to the courts that can be replicated in courtrooms around the country.
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