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Massachusetts District Court Encouraging Blogging from the Courtroom


Quincy District Court is embracing social networking by allowing journalists, bloggers and anyone with an iPhone to use WiFi to create real-time updates from the courtroom as part of its new OpenCourt experimental program.

Photo Credit Jasperdo resized 600

Photo Credit: Jasperdo

Yahoo News notes that most courts in the nation have been trying to find way to bar electronic comunication from the courtroom. The use of Twitter and Facebook has even resulted in some mistrials. Quincy District's OpenCourt is intended "to foster the openness of the American courts with the idea that more transparent courts make for stronger democracy." The OpenCourt Live website operated by Boston's NPR station even has Tweets from the Court as the day progresses.

Not everyone is excited about this new program. Brian Dodge, who was at the court facing charges of disorderly conduct, told the Associated Press, "People at home being able to watch this and know my business -- I don't like that. Why does everybody need to see my case online? It's nobody else's business." (Mr. Dodge apparently didn't have the realization that giving an interview to an Associated Press reporter might have a similar result.)

Richard Sweeney, a local defense attorney, said he's "not overly fond of the idea. I think there are a lot of pitfalls. I understand and respect the concept -- they want an open court. In this era of everyone having cellphones and videos, I can understand that, but it's fraught with perils for attorneys with conversations that can be picked up."

The presiding judge retains the right to turn off the video stream and limit multimedia coverage of cases. Restraining order sessions and juvenile sessions will be kept private, and no information that could harm witnesses of victims will be broadcast.


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