New Media In The Courtroom (Or Maybe Not)

A judge in Florida ordered a Jacksonville Times-Union reporter to stop blogging from a murder trial. According to the judge, the reporter, who was blogging using a laptop computer, was “distracting the jurors; they’re distracting me.” Apparently, the judge relied on a Supreme Court order that set rules for having television cameras in hearings. The problem is, that order is 31 years old. So it naturally didn’t contemplate laptop computers or blogs. This begs the question, what do a television camera and a laptop have in common? I’m not really sure. And I don’t know why a reporter typing on a laptop is any more distracting than a reporter scribbling in a notebook. Or more distracting than the court stenographer for that matter. Criminal trials are supposed to be open to the public. It’s a good way to make sure the trial is fair. And since the public typically has other things to do during the day, the press serves as its eyes and ears. Blogging technology – which no one even dreamed of 30 years ago – allows the real time transmission of the events at trial. It’s hard to see any good reason to shut it down.