Court of Appeals arguments go on Internet August 7

July 25, 2001

Work was completed Wednesday on installation of cameras to make oral arguments of the Mississippi Court of Appeals available on the Internet.

Internet access is expected to be available starting with cases set for argument August 7.

The work is part of a continuing program of technology improvements intended to make the judicial system more accessible to the public. Oral arguments of the Mississippi Supreme Court have been available on the Internet since April 2. The docket of cases before the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals has been available on the Internet since March 30. Work is also planned to implement a system for electronic filing later this year.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Roger H. McMillin Jr. said, "If all goes as planned, on August 7, 2001, the Court of Appeals of Mississippi's oral arguments will, for the first time, appear in real time on the Internet on the Court's web site. We believe this will be the first time that a state intermediate appellate court's oral arguments have been available for viewing by the general public in this way."

McMillin said, "With access to information comes understanding. It is our hope that this new form of access to the court system will, among other benefits, become an effective tool in our schools to acquaint students with our judicial system. This will help make them better citizens as they complete their education and take their places in society."

Court of Appeals Judge Leslie D. King agreed that education is an important benefit of Internet accessibility. He said law students and high school civics classes could utilize the Internet broadcasts in the classroom.

"I think there are two really important benefits," King said. "The first is for the legal community itself, in terms of watching the proceedings and having an idea of what is going on. I think there is a broader educational benefit for students and the public at large. I envision high school civics classes who are studying the court system having the opportunity to sit in the classroom and watch first-hand what is occurring and discuss that."

"Long-distance learning is now one of the big things in education. This fits right into that mode," King said.

King said that with the popularity of television programs that dramatize court proceedings, access to real courtroom proceedings will give the public a more accurate look at how the judicial system works. "This gives them the opportunity to see first-hand," King said.

McMillin said the video system will also be useful as a record for the Court.

McMillin said, "Besides these real time broadcasts, our new video system permits the recording of court proceedings in an inexpensive digital format, which will provide an accurate permanent record of the formal proceedings of our Court. We look forward to implementing this innovation."

The Internet broadcast will be live. The material will not be archived for later retrieval via Internet access. However, arguments will be available on CD from the office of the Supreme Court Clerk. The cost is $25 per CD.

Internet access to Court of Appeals arguments will work the same way as for Supreme Court arguments. To view oral arguments on the Internet, go to the Supreme Court's web site, courts.ms.gov and click on the DOCKET CALENDAR icon. This links to the LIVE BROADCAST SCHEDULE. Select Court of Appeals or Supreme Court to look at the schedule of upcoming arguments.

When a broadcast is in progress from either court, the user can click on the scheduled argument to tune in to the audio and video feed. The audio/video player on the user's PC will engage automatically. The viewer must have a web browser, audio/video player such as Real player and/or Microsoft Media player, and an Internet connection.

The video system for the Court of Appeals includes seven voice-activated cameras to cover the judges and the lawyers at the podium and to provide a wide-angle view of the courtroom.

The cost of the Court of Appeals Internet access project is $43,583. The Internet access system for the Supreme Court cost $55,610. Jefferson Audio and Video of Louisville, Ky., is the contractor.

Unlike the Supreme Court system, no connections will be available to allow broadcast media to capture the video and audio recorded inside the Court of Appeals courtroom.

Court-operated cameras are limited to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The state's trial courts operate under Canon 3 of the Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct, which prohibits cameras in the courtroom.

For more information, contact Beverly Pettigrew Kraft, public information officer for the state court system, at 601-354-7452.