Massachusetts court experiments with blogging, Twitter and Facebook
Quincy, Massachusetts: The Quincy District Court has been experimenting with new and social media in an effort to grasp how the courts can best use the new digital technologies. The experiment is called OpenCourt, and it has allowed citizens full access to court happenings through live-streaming, a blog and a Twitter account. It also provides a Wi-Fi connection to observers in an attempt to encourage citizen journalists and others to engage with the court through various forms of social media. Computers are now allowed in the court to facilitate this, as well as smartphones, iPads, etc. The project was started by Boston's NPR news station, WBUR and is being funded by a $250,000 grant through Knight News Challenge.
Many courts across the nation are very limited when it comes to the amount of new and social media they are allowed to use. Use of the Web has caused mistrials in some cases, since judges do not want jurors to research cases online and form a possible biased opinion prior to a trial. Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey also had his concerns, explaining, "In certain delicate cases, the court is going to have to exercise the appropriate discretion and balance that with the public's right to know." John Davidow, executive producer of the OpenCourt project said that, "The goal is really to come up with the best practices of how to use digital technology to bring the courts closer to the public."