Ontario Superior Court bans electronic note-taking unless you're a journalist or lawyer

Nicholas sez, "The TL:DR is essentially that the Ontario Superior Court has issued guidelines that by default make it against courtroom rules for anyone who is not a journalist or a lawyer to use tech in a courtroom. Even to take notes. Even if it is in the public interest. When I took part in the Byron Sonne trial note-taking (which many members and friends of Hacklab.to did), most of us used netbooks and laptops to transcribe court proceedings. Few of us would have qualified even as 'citizen' journalists, but our work was important because it gave public exposure to a very important case. If this policy is enforced, we won't be able to do that any more. Background: I am a member of Toronto Hacklab, I took a (marginal) part in taking notes for some of the later proceedings, and I used a laptop. If this policy had been in place back then, I would have not been able to transcribe court proceedings."

Ontario Superior Court OKs tweeting, but only by journalists and lawyers


        1. If what makes one “a journalist” is official sanction by the government, this undermines the entire notion of a free press. So unless you’re happy with *no-one* in court having access to any tech which is younger than about 100 years old, it’s nothing more than an authoritarian distinction about who is allowed to use which manner of recording device.

    1. Only until TSA shows up at courthouses. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s Canada, but that means it’s only a matter of time until my own countrymen and countrywomen stand by while their civil liberties are flushed down the toilet of apathy.

  1. On the one hand, it’s crazy that courts have these backwards opinions about what journalism and reporting and news are in the 21st century. On the other hand, when they do accept that citizens can be journalists on twitter, we get the twitter joke trial, so I’m really not sure which side of this argument I want to come down on.

        1.  I think that a rush to the bottom by the professional class of journalists is largely an explanation of the miserable state of journalism.

        2. Absolutely not accurate. There are good and bad journalists whether professional or not. Fox news as an example of a horrible professional journalist group.

    1.  I don’t CARE what the technology of today is.  I don’t think that being a paid employee of the media should give have any bearing on one’s rights, either to gather information or disseminate it

  2. One of a court’s primary concerns is, understandably, to insure that justice is served for the parties that appear before it, whether they be private individuals, organizations or the government.  A room full of keyboards clicking could easily distract the parties, their counsel and if relevant, the jury, from the evidence.  While courts must be open to the public, it is not always in the interests of justice that every convenience be extended to the courtroom audience.  In addition, in most jurisdictions, the only relevant “transcript” is the court’s official record taken by a trained and certified court reporter.  An observer’s notes are just that, notes; not a transcript.

  3. If you’re recording information to share with the public…aren’t you a journalist?

    It’s not like there’s an official board or anything. Not that that’s not coming, but it’s not around yet!

    Still — derp.

  4. Cook County Courts (Chicago…basically nearly 6 million people affected) are banning electronic devices in courtrooms starting this January except for lawyers.  The logic (or lack thereof) is that witnesses or civilians during trials are texting testimony to people who are excluded from the courtroom.  Since it is normal practice to ‘exclude’ the witnesses so that they don’t line up their testimony to what has just proceeded (and are barred from speaking with each other during the trial) judges at the venerable 26th and California courthouse (the big old criminal courthouse where even Capone sat for a few aborted trials) have expressed concern over collaboration.

    Now, I’m a criminal defense lawyer and I can tell you, I’m far more concerned over the cops doing this during a trial than I am the gangbangers.  They work their testimony out BEFORE they get to court anyway.  

    In reality, it’s going to be a huge hassle.  The sheriffs who run security at the court houses (there are 6 circuit courts that are as far as 50 miles apart in Cook County) have no where to have civilians PUT their electronic devices.  Since many poorer defendants take public transportation, what do you do when you’ve taken two buses and the El to get to court and now you are told you can’t bring in your phone…and you’re going to do what with it?

    I am all for technology in the courtrooms.  My smartphone is my calendar, my last second research tool (if I didn’t know the case before I got to court, I’ve probably made a huge mistake) and a time waster.  You have no idea how much time you spend in court doing absolutely nothing.

    1. Wait. A criminal defense guy at 26th and Cal who thinks the cops are a bigger problem than the gangbangers? I’m shocked!

      As you well know, the cops can line their testimony up, just as the bangers can. The wildcard is what happens when they testify. THAT is a valid concern. Execution is an issue, but the concern is valid.

      EDIT: Wait, are you even in Cook County?

  5. Just make yourself a press pass. *poof* you’re a journalist… and your press pass is just as legally valid as any held by “real” journalists.

  6. Not sure if I agree with this ban, but there are real issues created by allowing “non-journalists” to live-report from courtrooms. “Professional” journalists have to respect publication bans and whatever other orders may be made by judges, but these bans don’t really have any teeth for bloggers. There is a balance to be struck between open courts and closed courts- and i think canada has done a good job of striking that balance and avoiding the prime time spectacle that courts have become in the states. Judges should be able to have some degree of control over the journalism taking place in the court, independent private individuals live-blogging in the courts is going to diminish that. 

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