My earliest memory of Fiona Apple is watching her give that infamous "This world is bullshit" speech live at the VMAs. I was 11 or 12 at the time, and I know I'd least seen the video for "Criminal," but my blossoming adolescent male mind presumably had no idea how to wrap his head around it. Still, that badass speech left me with a largely positive impression of Apple, so that by the time the early recordings from her Extraordinary album began lacking that summer before I went to college, I was ready to actually embrace her songwriting for what it was (which is to, fantastic art).
So when I saw a headline the other day about Fiona Apple's work as a court watcher — essentially a volunteer citizen reporter, recording and informing on the things that actually happen in public court rooms — I can't say I was surprised. But I was excited and intrigued.
Here's the mission statement the National Court Watch Network:
It is easier for judges, prosecutors, and other courtroom actors to be cruel when they are not being watched.
But in a growing number of places, people are getting trained on how to be volunteer court watchers and document what they see.
Apple is very selective with the kind of press she'll do, and during the livestream conversation, she quipped, "I honestly hate doing stuff like this — I won't do it for my own music, it's not worth it." But when it comes to using her platform to bring attention to the importance of court, she said, "[I]f I can somehow help a few more people click on something, then, yeah, I want to do that… [Court watching] is an amazingly elegant solution to a lot of ills."
Apple gave a rundown of a day in the life as a court watcher. She briefly flipped through a notebook filled with notes taken during hearings and spoke about how court watchers raise awareness of issues that may influence how people are treated as they go through things like bail hearings. These include, Apple noted, the histories of arresting officers, red flags that might signal unconstitutional stops or arrests, and outsized bails are given to people for petty crimes.
'People Need to See What's Going On': Fiona Apple on the Importance of Court Watching [Jon Blistein / Rolling Stone]
Courtwatchers, Fiona Apple fight against 'assembly of injustice' [Katie Mettler / Washington Post]