Visible justice: YouTube and the UK Supreme Court

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The purpose of the article is to undertake a critical examination of a new audiovisual form of judicial communicati on developed by the UK Supreme Court. An audiovisual recording of the judge delivering a summary of the judgment now accompanies the publication of the full written judgment and a two page “ press summary ” of the judgment. The summary judgment video is avai lable for viewing on demand and at a distance via The Internet. The article begins by introducing the audiovisual data that makes up the video case study at the centre of this study and outlines the methods used to undertake the subsequent analysis. It is followed by a review of a number of fields of scholarship and debates that the study of these videos engages with: about cameras in courts; transparency and open justice; and news media representations of courts. A consideration of these literatures provid es an opportunity to identify and consider how this study helps to make sense of the Court’s video initiative. It also provides an opportunity to consider the contribution that this study can make to those areas of work. An analysis of the case study video s follows, beginning with a consideration of the representations of the court, the judge and judgment that are to be found in those videos. Attention then turns to study the some of the cultural assumptions and institutional factors that shape the visibili ty of judgment that the videos are generating. The paper ends with some reflections and conclusions about the nature of this visibility and the contribution that the summary judgment videos make to “ open justice ” and the “ transparency ” of the court; in par ticular the judiciary and judicial decision - making .

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... The work of Clover (1998) and Moran (2016) reminds us that framing and camera angles have important implications for how the camera presents the judge, as well as how it positions the viewer in relation to the judge. We found that the way that the framing and angles are used in court video links often creates views of courtroom participants, including the judge, that are different to those available in the courtroom. ...
... This new advertence to the ways in which the judge's image is being constructed through camera and screen requires the attention more commonly associated with film production (Mulcahy, 2008). Courts should pay attention, as film directors do, to the background to the subject, the costume of the subject, the presence or absence of symbolic markers of justice (such as the coat of arms), as well as the impact of camera angles, close-ups or long-shots, views from above, below or from the side (Moran, 2016;Clover, 1998). Courts could develop more sophisticated protocols, as they have done in the UK in regard to filming judgment summaries (Moran, 2016) For an example of suggested guidelines, see . ...
... Courts should pay attention, as film directors do, to the background to the subject, the costume of the subject, the presence or absence of symbolic markers of justice (such as the coat of arms), as well as the impact of camera angles, close-ups or long-shots, views from above, below or from the side (Moran, 2016;Clover, 1998). Courts could develop more sophisticated protocols, as they have done in the UK in regard to filming judgment summaries (Moran, 2016) For an example of suggested guidelines, see . ...
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... From whether to allow cameras in the courtroom to how to respond to a reporter's questions, the questions often outnumber the answers to issues that arise. With the explosion of social media, courts must now decide not if we will embrace social media but when and to what degree.' (Slayton, 2011, p. 34) Over a five-year periodfrom 2010 to 2015increased use of social media by courts in the US and, to some extent in Australia, Britain and Europe, saw a shift from perceptions of a 'future' inevitability of social-media use to actual, sometimes advanced, levels of adoption (Alemanno and Stefan, 2014;Davey et al., 2010;Jackson and Shelly, 2015/16;Johnston, 2012;2017a;Meyer, 2014;Moran, 2016;Slayton, 2011 Within this final phase of publicity, we need to take a step back and review the media world that the courts were now forced to navigate. Media theorist Mark Deuze describes contemporary society as embedded in 'media life' (2012a). ...
The paper examines the changing nature of publicity in the courts, tracing three distinct but interconnected phases of publicity using Jeremy Bentham's theory of open justice and publicity as a framework. The first phase is press coverage, with the news media chronicling the justice system for the general population, most recently including televised court proceedings. The second is the appointment of Courts Information Officers, occurring as early as the 1930s and growing in impact since the 1990s, established to facilitate the relationship between courts and the news media. The third and final phase is the Internet, including social media, resulting in changes to news media models and driving contemporary practices of court-generated media. The paper concludes that, while media and communication practices have changed radically since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the concept of publicity has shifted, Bentham's approach to open justice remains salient for twenty-first-century courts’ communication.
... Studies of the United Kingdom's Supreme Court communications office, for example, suggest that its efforts to communicate with the public about the work of the Court have generated an 'awakening' within the institution itself. 124 Portraiture scholars, too, suggest that the creation of visual images of professionals operates to both develop an identity of such individuals within the public psyche, and contributes towards formation of the institutions to which they belong. 125 These physical manifestations of the regime provide a site for association of those within the system, and reference points for those external to it. ...
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This article considers how the UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency and UN Convention on Transparency alter the structure of international investment arbitration, as well as its relationship with other regimes of international law. The article provides an overview of how transparency was regulated prior to the advent of the Rules and Convention, their structure and coverage, and their impact thus far (Section II). The article then considers their implications. Section III illustrates how the Rules and Convention effect a fragmentation of international arbitration through their distinction between investment treaty arbitration and other forms of arbitration. That Section furthermore highlights how the Rules and Convention reflect, and may prompt, a growing convergence of investment treaty arbitration and how they promote its linkage to other regimes of public international law. Section IV considers how the Rules and Convention modify the underlying structure of investment treaty arbitration, controlling disputing party and arbitral discretion to shift the structure of arbitration from a private form of dispute settlement to a more public form that takes into account external interests and participants. Section V examines the motivations prompting the development of the Rules and Convention, highlighting their development as a source of legitimacy and acceptance of the investment treaty arbitration regime. That Section highlights the promise of the Rules and Convention and their potential pitfalls, before canvassing a number of topics for future empirical study.
Courtroom media is a longstanding genre of news and entertainment, in radio, film, television, and print. Digital streaming platforms such as YouTube, which boasts over 2 billion users, have become a prominent source of courtroom content. In this research, I examine popularized YouTube sentencing clips: fairly short videos (often no more than a few minutes) which generally include a sentence-reaction formula, have little context (case, social, or individual), and are digitally shared, edited, and distributed online, primarily by news outlets and private channels. Specifically, I conduct a frame analysis of 53 sentencing clips from United States’ courtrooms. I find that sentencing clips reinforce dominant punitive justice frames, including justice-as-retribution, justice-as-victim-advocacy, and justice-as-entertainment. Moreover, as the majority of clips feature defendants sentenced for violent acts, including sexual assault, murder, and child abuse, they depict the ‘worst of the worst’ being brought to justice. Thus, in a time of criminal justice reform, of which there has been popular concern regarding the ‘relatively innocent,’ the criminal bogeyman remains alive and well on digital media platforms like YouTube. Punitive frames associated with the ‘worst of the worst,’ in turn, reinforce a punishment paradigm constitutive of contemporary U.S. criminal justice as a whole.
There has been a global shift towards courtroom broadcasting in a bid to extend the public gallery into a virtual realm. Such initiatives tend to be based on the idea that transmitting the courtroom boosts transparency and with it public trust in criminal justice. This is an untested ambition. Moreover, the idea that filming opens a window onto the courtroom comes up against the reality that any transmission entails translation, involving choices and compromises. Based on an in-depth study of courtroom filming and audience response, this article identifies two globally dominant stylistic modes and analyses their meaning and reception. We found that different stylistic modes prompt different types of audience engagement and allow for different levels of comprehension. The analysis therefore provides an insight into how courtroom footage is consumed by the viewing public. It also contributes to our understanding of the norms and values of institutional transparency.
An important way judicial authority is expressed is through in-court demeanor. Original empirical research investigates the demeanor of the judges of the High Court of Australia during oral argument by using a fine-grained analysis of transcripts and audio visual recordings. This research finds that the judges present an impersonal or detached demeanor, consistent with formal or abstract norms governing the judicial role. The slight departures from a detached demeanor observed suggest ways judicial presentation balances formal requirements of a detached demeanor with some human display of individual behaviors in a particular court context.
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