Welcome to OpenCourt
We are happy to announce the launch of OpenCourt, a pilot project that aims to open the workings of the justice system to the public using digital technology. Today is the first day we’ll be live-streaming the proceedings from the First Session of the Quincy District Court south of Boston.
Putting a live-streaming camera in a courtroom is a touchy subject. While we have a goal similar to C-SPAN to provide government transparency, the judicial branch affects the lives of ordinary citizens in a way than the legislative doesn’t. So we’ve spent the last few months working with every stakeholder who would have us, from judges, clerks, attorneys, domestic violence advocates on the local level to a high-level advisory board that meets at the Supreme Judicial Court in Boston.
We want to find the right a balance between the public’s right to know and citizens’ rights to a fair trial and to be able to come to the court system for protection.
We’ve also spent the last few months building this website, setting up our camera and live-streaming, and equipping the courtroom with a network that allows us to stream our live video as well as provide a Wi-Fi network for journalists and bloggers.
If you’re reading this, we’re sitting right next to the camera in our new “office,” the witness box of the court, which feels alternately like a bunker and a dunking booth. It is an extraordinary vantage point on the court, one that you will be able to share through our live video stream.
What you’ll see
The First Session is host mostly to arraignments. Arraignments are the first step in a defendant’s path through the judicial system, when they hear the charge against them and either a plea of innocent is entered for them or make a deal with the D.A..
If you’re watching arraignments for the first time, and the terminology is confusing, just check our glossary.
Last week people were arraigned on a variety of crimes including check forging, distribution of marijuana, credit card fraud, violation of a building code, receiving stolen property, armed robbery, and breaking into a repository in a church. We expect this week to be similar and we hope you’ll tune in and tell us what you think.