The highest court in Massachusetts has just ruled in favor of OpenCourt’s ability to video record, stream and archive public court proceedings online, writing that restricting rights to publish would violate First Amendment press protections.

i-c1c571b05e6c276cbfa1a53d3fdb7561-court.jpg

The decision arrived during Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

You can read the full decision here.

Here are some excerpts from the decision:

On First Amendment:

We conclude that any order restricting OpenCourt’s ability to publish — by “streaming live” over the Internet, publicly archiving on the website or otherwise — existing audio and video recordings of court room proceedings represents a form of prior restraint on the freedoms of the press and speech protected by the First Amendment and art.

On the Commonwealth vs. Barnes case:

In the Barnes case, we vacate the order of the District Court judge requiring the redaction of the name of the minor alleged victim. [FN2] We expect and anticipate that OpenCourt will continue to adhere to its policy of not publishing the name of the minor, but agree that on the record of this case, the judge’s order was unconstitutional because the Commonwealth did not provide an adequate demonstration that this particular minor’s privacy or psychological well-being would be harmed by publication of her name, or that a prior restraint was the least restrictive reasonable method to protect those interests.

On Diorio vs. First Justice of the Quincy District Court, the companion case:

In the Diorio case, we conclude that Diorio has not met the heavy burden of justifying an order of prior restraint with respect to the specific proceedings at issue in his petition for relief.

Guidelines:

Finally, we exercise our discretion pursuant to G.L. c. 211, § 3, to request that the Supreme Judicial Court’s judiciary-media committee submit for this court’s approval a set of guidelines for the operation of the OpenCourt pilot project.

Click here to listen to Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s thoughts on the decision.

A version of this post first appeared on the OpenCourt blog.

Image courtesy of Flickr user bloomsberries.