Following Digital Media into the Courtroom: Publicity and the Open Court Principle in the Information Age

Shauna Hall-Coates

Abstract


Despite the pervasive integration of technology into various social institutions, one public body—the courtroom—has largely resisted such efforts. This separation is collapsing, however, as trial spectators increasingly arrive at court expecting to use their handheld digital devices inside to publish information about trials in real-time on live-blogging platforms. Consequently, Canadian courts have been forced to grapple with what role, if any, digital media is to play within their walls as this new information age puts pressure on a centuries old legal tradition.

This article examines the debate on the use of digital devices in the courtroom from the perspective of the “open court principle,” as articulated in both law and general jurisprudential theory. It argues that using digital media as a platform to disseminate courtroom narratives has the potential to strengthen many of the open court principle’s foundational values, including accessibility, judicial accountability, and freedom of speech. These benefits may nonetheless come at a cost to the open court’s normative functions, since multiple, non-linear courtroom narratives created by digital media can undermine the publication of clear, determinate norms around which people can structure their lives. Accordingly, this article suggests that in deciding whether to permit digital media use in the courtroom, the justice system must determine which of the democratic values that underpin the open court principle ought to be given decisive weight in modern society.


Keywords


law; technology; courtroom; open court; information

Full Text:

PDF

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.