ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Remote access to courthouses across the country became a paramount feature throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Now many voices want transparency and access through electronic means at courts, creating a new level of openness.
Fiona Apple, an American singer-songwriter, shared a video on Twitter encouraging her fans to join her in calling state lawmakers in Maryland specifically to support legislation that would continue to allow virtual court access.
“Hello my name is Fiona Apple, and I am calling to support HB647 to keep remote access to courts,” Apple said. “Please put this legislation up for a vote to keep our courts fair, open, and transparent.”
Apple encouraged her followers to call in and make the following statement for both Maryland House Bill 647 and Senate Bill 469.
Apple joined the fight for public access when she began court-watching in Prince George’s County after she and other celebrities took part in the “Gasping for Justice” campaign in 2020 to support a lawsuit filed trying to improve conditions at the county jail during a coronavirus outbreak.
During the Grammy’s last year, Apple recorded a different social media video in which she addressed the concerns about voting transparency for the awards. She said that it was more important to talk about transparency in the courts.
Before this year’s state legislative session, Court Watch PG and other advocates for courtroom transparency created a proposed law that would mandate remote public access in every courthouse in Maryland.
These bills would require each court in the State to provide remote audio-visual access to all public court proceedings unless federal or State law deemed a proceeding as closed, confidential, or restricted; and allow a presiding judge to prohibit a certain broadcast under certain circumstances.
Officials at the state and federal levels are weighing the cost of upgrading the technology for America’s courthouses, the ethics of remote observation, and participation in virtual court proceedings.
Currently, each courthouse in the state has discretion over its remote access policies, creating inconsistency that advocates say is detrimental to both the public and court participants.
The House and Senate Bills remain in their committees, making them unlikely to pass during the 2022 Legislative Session.
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