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Court Embraces Tech in Prop8 Trial

Today marks the start of Perry vs Schwarzenegger, the federal trial to overturn California’s Prop 8. You can go all over to find out about the court battle. I’m gonna tell you about how Chief Judge Vaughn Walker is bringing this trial to the people. Through bloggers, Blackberries, Twitter and YouTube…

In the US District Courts there has always been a ban on cameras, cell phones, laptops and PDAs. The proceedings, while normally open to the public, can not be viewed outside of the courtroom. This is true for most state courts and the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). But the Hon. Judge Walker saw the national impacts of this trial and the millions of people it would effect… and thought they should be involved. He also saw that technology has changed, while court’s rules haven’t. Technology can, with very little effort, connect all interested parties to the trial. Now you can know what’s going on instantly, and we do love Instant.

In consultation with other judges and the litigators Judge Walker has opened up the doors and pulled back the curtains. Allowing in PDA’s cell phones, laptops and room for thousands of viewers. The room for viewers comes from the decision to allow “remote” live broadcasts of the trial to waiting areas in the Court House. But even more than that, the trial will be broadcast to waiting areas in other US District Courts. Five other Court Houses will be carrying the broadcast for public and media viewers.

Some rules still apply here. Like, no one is allowed to record in any way these broadcasts. So, no audio tapes, pictures, videos or any other medium can be made which includes even a side shot of the monitors. “They” will be watching and you will get in trouble. So don’t do it!

For the media, they have set up special conference rooms and even built onto the new Permanent Press room. There will be special areas for tv/radio journalists to hold interviews. They have even wired the building with direct fiber optic lines that run out of the building to the satellite/broadcast truck area. That way there wont be miles of cords and cables running throughout the building.

But what about non traditional journalists, like bloggers. Well Judge Walker thought of us, too. For the first time, they will allow the gallery (public and media in the court room) to use their laptops. They even get to use their Blackberry to sending emails. Walker has also ordered that you can text message from the court room! Some deep thought had to have gone into this. Seeing that even traditional journalists are turning to technology to reach deadlines and crack stories. I was floored though when I was reading the “Media Guide”, provided by the court. It states :

Cell phones, pagers and other devices may NOT be used except for text functions and must be turned off or set to vibrate mode in the courtroom. “Tweeting” is a permitted form of texting. Cell phones may be used in the hallways outside the courtrooms and other public areas. A public phone is available on the second floor of the San Francisco federal building

OMG! You can Tweet from the court room! My only thing here is… Whose gonna be “that guy” who forgets to put his phone I silent. I wish I could be there to report on his lame ringtone.

Now, event though these items are allowed in to the court room, there use is strictly defined. You can NOT take pictures, capture video or audio. That is a No No that will land you in the Marshall’s office. So again. don’t do it!

But what if you don’t live within range of one of these remote broadcast? Have no fear… the Wise Judge Walker has thought of you, too. The trial will be broadcast on YouTube. Yes, mother-fraking YouTube! We are now there people… The Revolution Will Be Televised…

The Court has been testing out how to do this. Right now they have three cameras set up. One on the judge, the witness and the council. Walker will need to be able to cut off parts of the broadcast from time to time. Like when the two councils approach the bench, there should be no audio of that. Or if a witness is to be “shielded” there will be no video. They posted a test run of their system the other day, you can view it here.

One down side to the YouTube broadcast… it will be on a one day delay. I know there is legal argument for this… but I have no idea what it was/is. But hey, we can wait a day to get the videos, right? I mean we will have people tweeting and live blogging from the inside. Here is the United States District Court of the Northern District Of California’s (USDC-NDC) YouTube Channel.

Here are the two people I recommend you follow for all the in-court news.


List of remote sites –

Richard H. Chambers U.S. Courthouse Pasadena, California
James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse San Francisco, California
U.S. States Court of Appeals Pioneer Courthouse Portland, Oregon
William K. Nakamura U.S. Courthouse Seattle, Washington
Theodore Roosevelt U.S. Courthouse Brooklyn, New York

*** Update *** SCOTUS Stays YouTube & Remote broadcasting!
As of noon today, Monday January 11th, The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has blocked the USDCNDC from uploading videos of the trial to YouTube and of simultaneous broadcasts to other US District Courts. They can still broad cast within the San Fransisco US District Court Building. This order blocking the broadcast is temporary while the high court takes more time to consider it. It will expire on January 13th at 4pm Est. Supreme Court Justice, Stephen G Breyer said that he did not agree with prop 8 supporters that they would “suffer” or be targeted because of these broadcasts. For more on this check out Lyle Denniston’s post at the SCOTUSblog.

This to me is a big pile of BS. So, you are afraid that you will be targeted and discriminated against because you support DISCRIMINATION?!? They bought that?!? If you truly believe in what you are fighting for… why hide. We aren’t hiding. We stand strong and proud in our convictions. Cowards!

*** Update *** No More YouTube!
Tuesday, January 12th – Judge Walker has pulled the plug on the YouTube pilot program. Instead he is moving to have the video broadcast on the USDC-NDC website. But, the SCOTUS stay is still in effect until tomorrow at 4pm Est. SCOTUS, the Judicial Council, the Judicial Conference Executive Committee, Ninth District Court and the Prop8 supporters are all fighting this out.

The JCEC is saying that remote broadcasting of the trial to other District Courts violates their standing rules on public dissemination. The Ninth District Court, with Judge Walker, are saying it’s not the JCEC’s place to make such rules. The Prop8 supporters are saying that switching from YouTube to the Court’s website is basically the same thing. People will be able to copy and re-broadcast the videos. ** No they wont. That would be “ripping” or illegally downloading copyrighted and protected content for a federal court. No journalist or blogger would be some dumb as to download and post that video. You would get in MEGA trouble.

SCOTUS will have to weigh all of this. Does the JCEC have the authority to dictate how the District Courts can operate… For a more in depth and, way more knowledgeable, article go check out Lyle Denniston’s post at SCOTUSblog.

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One comment

  1. I remember when I went to court to observe for my subject, the cellphones are required to turn off. I just hope everything will be resolved regarding the prop8. I believe that everyone is entitled to be happy with someone they truly love regardless of their gender.

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