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Fiona Apple reminds us that our courts should be transparent

The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter thinks court proceedings should be open and accessible. She’s right.


The U.S. Supreme Court isn’t the only judicial body fighting transparency these days.

We were reminded this week of another example, in neighboring Maryland, thanks to musician Fiona Apple. Perhaps better known for her '90s hit “Criminal,” among others, she’s been pushing for the state’s courts to stream proceedings.

Though Apple doesn’t live in Maryland, she became invested in court-watching during the pandemic and is advocating for legislation to ensure online access.

Obviously, court proceedings should be open, but government officials often resist transparency measures, preferring to control the status quo. Court watchers around the country have drawn attention to issues such as the amount of bail requested by prosecutors and granted by judges for people charged with lower-level offenses.

And there’s something in common between the measures in Maryland that Apple is fighting for and the calls for increased transparency at the Supreme Court: Covid-19 showed what’s possible.

The justices turned to streaming oral argument audio during the pandemic, and they’ve continued the practice for arguments. As I wrote last month, there’s no good reason that the justices can’t also stream audio when they announce opinions, which happened for the first time of the term this week but no one outside the court could hear it because of the court’s arbitrary choice. The justices should be streaming video as well, but that’s another fight — maybe one that Apple can push for next.