Indiana courts may livestream proceedings during COVID-19 emergency

The Indiana Supreme Court has issued an order authorizing livestreaming of court proceedings during the coronavirus emergency. The order relaxes longstanding rules prohibiting the broadcasting of live court sessions to balance the public interest in judicial transparency while access to courts is restricted, justices said.

The high court’s announcement comes after Indiana’s stay-at-home order was extended until May 1 by Gov. Eric Holcomb last week.

Under the order, all Indiana trial courts may livestream nonconfidential court proceedings on public platforms, including but not limited to YouTube, to accommodate public access to court proceedings. Livestreams only will be viewable during the proceeding and may not be recorded, according to the order.

Further, the order says courts shall admonish “virtual courtroom” participants not to record the proceedings and that courts should use a “DO NOT RECORD” watermark on each live-streamed proceeding.

The order says permitting livestreaming during the current public health emergency strikes a balance “between the public’s transparency interest and the judiciary’s obligation to maintain order and dignity of proceedings and protect litigants’ due process and fair trial rights.” The order said prior orders restricting access of non-necessary parties to court proceedings are necessary for public health but “impede the public interest” in judicial transparency.

Due to the ongoing public health emergency, all circuit, superior, and probate courts, some small claims courts, and several city and town courts (‘trial courts’) petitioned for and were granted emergency relief pursuant to Administrative Rule 17 — including authorization, subject to Constitutional limitations, to use telephonic or video technology in lieu of in-person appearances and to limit non-necessary parties’ attendance at judicial proceedings,” Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote in the Wednesday order.

The order says courts shall adhere Administrative Rule 14 governing use of telephone and audiovisual communication and guidance issued by the Indiana Office of Court Services regarding best practices for implementing and operating “virtual courtrooms” and preserving the court record.

Rule 2.17 of the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct generally prohibits “broadcasting” of court proceedings without the Supreme Court’s authorization, and the order notes that other provisions of that rule barring the recording of court proceedings remain in effect.

Click here for previous court orders and developments in the legal community related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

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