The justices of the Supreme Judicial Court announced on March 2
the approval of SJC Rule 1:19 governing "Electronic Access to the
Courts," effective July 1, 2012. After the new rule has been in
operation for a year, the Court will review it to determine whether
further revisions are needed.
The new Rule 1:19 is designed to recognize the changes in
technology and journalism since the original
rule was promulgated and to maintain the necessary order and
decorum in the Massachusetts courts. Among the major changes are
- News media are defined as those who are regularly engaged in
the reporting and publishing of news or information about matters
of public interest. This would include citizen journalists who meet
- News media are allowed to use laptop computers and other
electronic communication devices inside courtrooms if they are not
disruptive to the proceedings.
- Those seeking to cover the courts using the permitted
technology are required to register with the Public Information
Officer of the Supreme Judicial Court, confirm that they meet the
definition of news media, and agree to follow
the provisions in Rule 1:19. A judge has the discretion to permit
electronic access by a person who had not registered.
- In addition to one video and one still camera, a second
mechanically silent video camera is allowed for use by media other
than broadcast television and still photographers.
- Motions to suppress may be electronically recorded.
- If news media ask to record multiple cases in a session on the
same day, a judge may reasonably restrict
the number of cases that are recorded to prevent undue
administrative burdens on the court.
- The rule applies to clerk magistrates conducting public
- As in the original rule, covert photography, recording or
transmission is prohibited; a judge retains the right to limit or
suspend electronic coverage if it would create a harmful
consequence; and the media are required to make arrangements for
sharing of video and still photographs. The new rule provides that
minors and sexual assault victims may not be photographed without
the consent of the judge. It continues the current restrictions on
recording or photographing voir dire hearings concerning
jurors or prospective jurors, side-bar conferences, conferences
between counsel and client, and frontal or close-up photography of
jurors and prospective jurors.