On Tuesday, Nov. 8, at 9 a.m., the SJC will hear two cases, both arising out of the experimental OpenCourt project designed to make Quincy District Court more accessible to the public. Both cases challenge the right of OpenCourt to webcast criminal proceedings live and to archive webcasts on the Internet.
In one of the two cases, Charles Diorio v. First Justice of the Quincy Div. of the District Court Department, Diorio contends that OpenCourt's broadcast of his arraignment and archiving of the footage violated his constitutional right to a fair trial because identification would be an issue at the trial. In the second case, Commonwealth v. Norman Barnes, the district attorney challenges OpenCourt's archiving of an evidentiary hearing in which the identity of a child sexual assault victim was disclosed.
In both cases, WBUR-FM, the Boston University public radio station that operates OpenCourt, argues that any restrictions on it webcasting and archiving would constitute prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment.
On Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 9 a.m., the SJC will hear another media-access case, coincidentally also arising out of Quincy District Court, William O'Connell v. Criminal Clerk of Quincy District Court. The issue in this case is whether affidavits and other materials filed in support of a search warrant are public documents.
The appeal results from a request by The Patriot Ledger in Quincy to terminate an impoundment order covering documents filed in support of a warrant to search O'Connell's condominium. O'Connell's principle argument in support of maintaining the secrecy of the documents is that they involve allegations of rape and sexual assault. But the District Court judge, in lifting the impoundment order, ordered that any references to the alleged victim be redacted to protect her privacy.
In the O'Connell case, the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association has filed an amicus brief, in conjunction with the New England Newspaper and Press Association, the Citizen Media Law Project and the New England First Amendment Coalition.
All of the arguments at the SJC this week will be webcast.