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Detailed Guide: Massachusetts

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Allows Cameras? Yes (with permission)
Exceptions: Motions to suppress, dismiss, or of probable cause; jury selection hearings

Audio or Video Webcast? Yes
Media Guide Available? Yes
Allows Cell Phones to Record Video? Yes

Rule 1:19 of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts permits extended coverage of all proceedings open to the public except hearings on motions to suppress or to dismiss, or of probable cause or jury selection hearings. Close-up shots of bench conferences, conferences between attorneys, or attorney-client conferences is prohibited. Frontal and close-up photography of the jury “should not usually be permitted.” The media must submit requests for coverage to the presiding judge “reasonably” in advance of the proceeding to be covered, or risk denial. Before a party or a witness may move to limit media coverage, it must first notify the Bureau Chief, Newspaper Editor, or Broadcast Editor of the Associated Press. Oral arguments before the Supreme Judicial Court are available by webcast.

In 2012, the Massachusetts Supreme Court held in favor of a National Public Radio (NPR) pilot project that streams certain court proceedings online. NPR’s pilot project, called OpenCourt, broadcasts one district court’s court proceedings live by streaming video and audio on the Internet. The Supreme Judicial Court Media-Judiciary Committee approved OpenCourt. The Supreme Court held that “any order restricting OpenCourt’s ability to publish--by ‘streaming live’ over the Internet, publicly archiving on the website or otherwise--existing audio and video recordings of court room proceedings represents a form of prior restraint on the freedoms of the press and speech protected by the First Amendment and Art.” In addition, the Court requested that the Judiciary-Media committee develop guidelines for the pilot program.

Links: Authority
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:19: Electronic Access to the Courts
Commonwealth v. Barnes, 461 Mass. 644 (Mass. 2012)

Links: Other
Video Webcast: Supreme Judicial Court
Trial Court Policy on Cellular Telephones and Personal Electronic Devices
Massachusetts Courtroom Media Access

Last edited: December 13, 2022