A New Public Access Protocol

The FJD announced a new protocol for public access to the courts:

“Consistent with the April 28, 2020 Supreme Court’s Emergency Order of Statewide Judicial Administration Applicable from May 1, 2020 through June 1, 2020 (Nos. 531 and 532 Judicial Administration Docket), the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania (FJD) will continue to utilize Zoom remote conferencing technology as well as other Advanced Communication Technology to conduct hearings and trials (“judicial proceedings”) and provisions will be made to ensure reasonable means of access to the public.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, live-stream access, a recording of the proceeding or the official record of the proceeding to which a right to public and press access would otherwise exist will be made available to as provided below.

For public access to a particular courtroom or event please email your request to: CourtroomPublicAccess@courts.phila.gov

Guidelines

While the FJD remains generally closed to the public through the close of business on May 29, 2020, pursuant to the April 28, 2020 Supreme Court order, the FJD will gradually begin to conduct court business utilizing remote proceedings pursuant to the following guidelines:

  1. The FJD has a premium Zoom license and will host proceedings. All other users may use the basic Zoom license, available from Zoom, at no cost.
  • Access to proceedings will be provided to the public unless limited by statute or rule, or the proceeding is closed by the presiding judge.
  • A court reporter or DRT will be assigned to the Zoom proceeding. A court reporter will prepare and certify the original transcript for filing with the Court pursuant to Pa.R.J.A. 4001.
  • It is unlawful and a criminal offense to record, transmit or broadcast video, audio or photograph of any judicial proceeding and violators may be found to be in contempt of court and may be criminally charged with a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to two years for a first offense. See Pa.R.J.A. 1910, Pa.R.Crim.P. 112 and 18 Pa.C.S. § 5103.1
  • The public sharing of Zoom links or passwords related to court proceedings is prohibited.
  • Witnesses will be sworn in by the Court.
  • Private communication between attorneys, witnesses and parties, if permitted by law or authorized by the Court, may take place through private Zoom rooms, chat, or other communication method.
  • Prior to the start of proceedings, the Court will send an email inviting all attorneys, witnesses, and court staff to the Zoom conference.
  • The Court may remove disruptive participants from the virtual hearing. 

Despite not being physically in the courtroom, the Court reminds participants of the following:

  1. Parties should wait until prompted before speaking and should be advised to speak slowly and as clearly as possible so that an accurate record of the proceeding can be created.
  • The proceedings may be steamed live or recorded and will be transcribed by the court reporter and will be available to the parties and public as permitted by rules of court. Unless in a private Zoom room, anything said by any participant will be made part of the record.
  • Courtroom decorum rules still apply. Those participating should continue to operate as if they were inside the courthouse. Standards, including decorum, demeanor, and dress code, still apply.”

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