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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 10, 2010 4:00 AM. The previous post in this blog was Big quake off Eureka, Cal.. The next post in this blog is Why build affordable housing?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

A true inconvenience

When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit announced a while back that it was going to allow video cameras into federal courtrooms for civil trials, I thought: "About time. Let people watch the wheels of justice turn without having to go down to the courthouse, which they'll never do."

Well, surprise! Even with the cameras, you'll have to go down to the courthouse to watch. They just announced that the big federal trial of California's same-sex marriage case, which starts tomorrow, is going to be televised, but get this: The live feed will be only to a handful of other federal courthouses on the West Coast (and one in Brooklyn, New York). Here in Oregon, if you want to watch the trial, you'll have to head to the Pioneer Courthouse to watch the big screen in the courtroom there (if there's enough room for the number of spectators who show up).

With all due respect, that's pretty silly. First of all, we just spent mega-millions turning that courthouse into an armed fortress so that your average Joes and Janes will stay out of it. Now we're going to make it the TV viewing station? Will people on both sides of the case be allowed to stand up, cheer, and throw rolls of toilet paper when something good happens for their side -- or will regular courtroom decorum be required? (And if the latter, who will enforce it?) The scene at the Pioneer Courthouse might actually be more interesting than the trial itself. Perhaps we could put cameras in that courtroom, too.

But all kidding aside, confining the viewing stations to federal courthouses eviscerates the public accessibility aspect of this experiment, which I thought was the whole point. Sheesh, Ninth Circuit, could you spare it?

Comments (16)

The Courthouse is very accessible. About a month ago, I got a parking ticket outside while paying a speeding ticket inside.

Wrong courthouse, Brian.

First of all the 9th circuit is not known for having a lot of common sense, and they seldom agree with decisions of the other federal appellate courts in the U.S. Being headquartered in San Fransico speaks volumes about what to expect.

But off kilter as they often seem to be, there still exists this built in "government instinct" to protect that which is theirs, often times by keeping the process a mystery. By doing so it minimizes criticism following any decision, good or bad. We often holler for transparency in government, but somehow forget to include the judicial branch in the rant.

9th court of appeals was fine until republicans were appointed.
As with all political agencies transparency is something no party or agency wishes.

What is happening to this country?
Is there anything left for the citizens of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA or are we going to be left out of every single official government process?

Jack,

Will the court feed the signal to your law school or to a group of law schools?

Not so far.

And taking this analysis a fit further, will they prevent attendees from bringing in video recording devices? It would seem that if they want to control public accessibility that badly, they'll have to do that as well.

Thats what I was thinking John... I wonder who will try to challenge that? Maybe a good journalist or blogger?

I'm sure you won't be entering the Pioneer Courthouse without passing through heavy security, most likely operated by the U.S. Marshals or the Federal Protective Service.

If they say no cameras, then so be it -- although nowadays just about every cell phone is a camera. They'll probably throw you out if your cell phone rings, or if you pull it out and try to use the camera function. We'll see.

The news release clearly says, "No photographs or recording of the audio and video displayed at the remote viewing locations will be allowed".

SCOTUS, led by Roberts, has very recently ruled:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100111/ap_on_go_su_co/us_gay_marriage_trial

Change often takes more time than anticipated.

I thought I remember reading that it would only be viewable live in the other courthouses, but that they would post it on YouTube a day or two later. Have they reversed that decision?

Speaking of Pioneer Courthouse, does anyone know why it is still scaffolded on one side? I don't think I've ever seen that building completely without scaffolding since the big renovation started in 2002 or 2003. Is it in continual danger of falling down or what?

I guess even the live feeds got zapped, at least for now:

It was also to have been the first federal trial in California telecast to the public, in a delayed Internet posting on YouTube. But an hour before the trial started, the Supreme Court blocked the uploads, along with live simulcasts in several federal courthouses, at the request of Prop. 8 defenders who argued that camera coverage would subject witnesses to harassment and intimidation.

I guess we come back Wednesday to see what the final decision is.

The scaffolding on the Pioneer Courthouse has to do with repairing the stonework. The scaffolding began on the front and has moved around to the other sides. Not really related to the base-isolation project which resulted in the long closure of the Courthouse several years ago.


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