The Superior Court of Justice of Ontario has issued a ‘protocol’ that will (as of February 1) allow lawyers, licensed paralegals, law students, self-represented parties, and ‘media or journalists’ to use electronic communications devices (broadly defined to include laptops and smart phones) in court without express permission. Naturally there are some conditions, including:
- don’t disturb the proceedings
- don’t distribute any information that is subject to a publication ban
- don’t take any pictures
- don’t distribute recordings (though lawyers and journalists may make recordings for their own use)
However, “Members of the public are not permitted to use electronic devices in the courtroom unless the presiding judge orders otherwise.” In other words, the rules of section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act continue to apply to the general public, as they will apply to photography by those who have the general permission noted above.
Does this seem appropriate to you?
How will supervising officials, or for that matter compliance-minded people in the courtroom, decide who falls into the class ‘media or journalists’, in this day of widespread blogging? The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that rules about defamation (notably the right of responsible reporting of matters of public interest) apply to anyone reporting, not just accredited journalists. And these days many employed journalists are also self-employed on the side. Should one try to distinguish between a professional and someone doing it for free?
Do you have any other concerns with the protocol? Does it go far enough? Will you take advantage of it, and how?
Happy new technology year!