Gavel Grab

MA High Court Rules in Favor of ‘OpenCourt’ Project

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of project OpenCourt’s ability to record, stream online, and archive public court proceedings, reports the Nieman Journalism Lab. The high court declared that restricting the project’s rights to publish was a violation of First Amendment press protections.

In its decision, the court said that those opposed to OpenCourt failed to show a compelling justification for government censorship of the online material, according to the Boston Globe.

This decision came during Sunshine Week, a national initiative meant to promote a dialogue on the importance of open government and freedom of information. OpenCourt was conceived as a way to make local Massachusetts courts more accessible to the public through technology.

OpenCourt placed cameras in courtrooms that could live-stream footage online in 2011, but by last summer, a local district attorney had filed motions to shut off livestream videos and keep the project from publishing them online, the article says.

According to the Nieman article, a judge denied the motion to remove the livestream, but did not comment on the archived records. However, as other state actors became involved, OpenCourt fought to keep its online resources.

“When there are less and less reporters out there to be the bridge to what’s going on in the nation’s courts, there needs to be a way for the public to be informed about how justice is administered in this country,” said John Davidow, the project’s executive director. “We felt that it was really an important right for us to fight for in the courts,” he said.

The Supreme Court’s decision can be found here.

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