Gift to Gays: 'Tweeting' Allowed
The ground-breaking aspects of the case expanded even more on Christmas Eve, with a procedural decision issued from Judge Vaughn Walker. Back in August, after a pre-trial hearing, in which only paper and pens were allowed, I said the hearing was a throwback to the stone age. That assessment has been radically altered.
In his guidelines regarding rules for journalists covering the trial that begins on January 11, 2010, Walker advanced the cause of judicial transparency and brought the soon-to-start legal proceedings into the modern electronic age, at least as it pertains to laptops, texting and using Twitter. From the PDF booklet:
In the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Chief Judge Walker has granted express permission for the following in Courtroom 7 and the overflow courtroom, unless otherwise ordered:
1. Use of a laptop.
2. Although generally prohibited, use of a Blackberry or other similar personal device for transmission of e-mail, including filing of reporter's stories, is permitted in Courtroom 7 and the overflow courtroom, unless otherwise ordered.
3. Wireless internet access is not otherwise available in the federal court, but silent use of a wireless card to transmit from the courtroom is permitted.
4. Unless a specific area is officially designated by U.S. Marshal's for photography inside the building (such as the Federal Bar Association Media Center on the first floor), cameras may not be used in the San Francisco federal building. Photography and interviews are permitted outside the building. No cabling is permitted in the federal building.
5. Cell phones, pagers and other devices may NOT be used except for text functions and must be turned off or set to vibrate mode in the courtroom. "Tweeting" is a permitted form of texting. [...] (Emphasis added.)
Allowing all those forms of communication is indeed highly laudable, however, Walker stopped far short of bringing full transparency to the historic case unfolding in his courtroom, explained in rule No. 6:
Broadcasting of proceedings is prohibited by policy of the Judicial Conference of the United States. This includes tape recording devices of any kind. As an exception, the court has specifically permitted short circuit broadcasting to an adjoining courtroom to accommodate additional observers.
If an exception to the Judicial Conference can be made for the overflow of reporters and other court observers, it behooves corporate media giants with First Amendment lawyers on retainer to appeal to the court to simply share the short-circuit feed beyond the courtroom next to Walker's.
I'm feeling quite optimistic for the gay community regarding the legal outcome of the trial, and also for increased sunshine principles, which is why I'm climbing out on a limb today and predicting that before the Olson/Boies lawsuit is over in Walker's courtroom, we're going to see some of the proceedings air on TV and the web.
(Hat tip: Eve Batey, of SFAppeal.com.)