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Our View: Federal appeals court praised for open courts


December 4, 2013

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from several western states including Montana, will soon begin live streaming courts proceedings.

That means people throughout the country will be able to watch lawyers make arguments and judges ask questions on cases of importance. All you need is a computer screen.

Currently, the 9th Circuit posts video of some proceedings, which makes it far more advanced than most federal courts which prohibit any kind of telecasting of court events.

Sadly, the United States Supreme Court is bound and determined not to enter the 21st century and refuses to allow people to see the court make decisions that will affect their lives.

Of the nine justices, only Sonia Maria Sotomayor is open to the idea of cameras in the court.

Fortunately, those kinds of archaic thoughts don’t exist in the 9th Circuit.

"The Ninth Circuit has a long history of using advances in technology to make the court more accessible and transparent," 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said in a statement. "Video streaming is a way to open the court's doors even wider so that more people can see and hear what transpires in the courtroom, particularly in regard to some of our most important cases."

Some of the most important issues facing our democracy are argued in federal courts. People have a right to hear the pros and cons of every issue that goes before the justices.

In states where cameras are allowed in courtrooms — such as Montana — there has been an increase in public understanding of courts and what takes place in courts.

Opponents fear that lawyers will ham it up in front of the cameras. That’s where tough-minded judges come into the picture. They need to enforce strict rules to maintain order and keep the focus on the issues at hand.

But fear that something may go wrong — and little has gone wrong in states that have opened courtrooms to cameras — should not take away from the fact that open courtrooms enable people to learn more about the judicial system and the issues that affect our lives.

Cheers to the 9th Circuit for taking this vital step forward.


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