Helping Trial Lawyers Navigate the Appellate System

Live Supreme Court Webcasts Begin March 20

In a joint project, the Supreme Court of Texas and St. Mary’s University School of Law will begin live Internet video streaming of the Court’s oral arguments March 20.

“This represents not only a great service to lawyers around Texas, but an educational opportunity for law students, colleges, high schools and the public at large,” said Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson.  “Broadcasting these arguments over the Web will enable anyone, anywhere to see how an appellate court grapples with some of the toughest legal issues our state confronts.”

“We will shed light about how the Supreme Court decides its cases, whether to counter the misimpression that an appellate argument is like Perry Mason in front of nine judges or to dispel myths about how justices on the Court decide cases.”

Internet broadcast of oral arguments will be available through either the Court’s Web site or the St. Mary’s law school site.  The video arguments will be available in archives at the law school Web site.

Webcasting oral arguments represents a partnership between St. Mary’s and the Court working through the Office of Court Administration, which provides technological support for courts across Texas.  The Supreme Court courtroom has been equipped with five remote cameras, updated audio equipment and improved lighting.

Bill Piatt, the dean of St. Mary’s law school, suggested the collaboration last year in a meeting with Justice Paul W. Green, a St. Mary’s law alumnus.  “We are honored that the Court is allowing us to assist in making these important proceedings accessible to the public over the Internet,” Dean Piatt said.

“The Court’s initiative in bringing oral arguments to the people will greatly improve the understanding of the Court’s work, thereby enhancing the administration of justice in this state.”  Justice Green added that the webcasts also offer a benefit to lawyers who might be preparing for their first argument before the Court, enabling them to watch the Court in action before actually appearing for arguments, and to learn about its procedures and traditions.

Bruce Hermes, technology director for the Office of Court Administration who managed the project implementation, said initial webcasts will be monitored to determine the demand.  “We are set up for 300 simultaneous viewers,” Hermes said.  “After the first couple of months, we will review it to see if that meets demand.”

Chief Justice Jefferson said that, with the Legislature’s additional financial support, which he is seeking this session, the St. Mary’s webcasting project will rival the best in the nation.  “Together, with St. Mary’s on this venture and with the Legislature’s support on other initiatives, we hope to bring the justice system closer to people.”

The Court has issued a policy, pending revision of Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 14, allowing attorneys by motion to the Court to opt out of webcasting a particular argument.

Source for post:  Osler McCarthy, Texas Supreme Court Staff Attorney for Public Information.

D. Todd Smith
About the Author

D. Todd Smith is an Austin-based civil appellate specialist who works with trial teams from the earliest stages of litigation. In trial courts, he takes the lead on strategic analysis and briefing, jury charges, and potentially dispositive motions, all with a focus on preserving error and positioning cases for appellate review.

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