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Courtroom tweeting policy excludes many

A new policy allowing lawyers, self-represented parties and journalists to tweet from the courtroom is too limiting, says Toronto forensic accountant Patricia Harris.

The Ontario Superior Court has overturned its traditional ban on smart phones and tablets and has opened up all its proceedings, from small claims court to murder trials, to live Twitter accounts from the three designated groups, the National Post reports.  Read National Post

Critics say because the ban for the general public is maintained, the protocol violates the free expression rights of Canadians who are not journalists, and puts judges in the awkward position to decide who is, the Post reports.

“If a member of the public attends a trial, it is likely that they have knowledge or at least a great interest in the case. Why limit tweeting to lawyers, self-represented parties, and journalists?” says Harris, partner with Fuller Landau LLP. “If it is a matter of limiting distraction in the courtroom, I would think that lawyers and the self-represented tweeting in court would be more distracting than a member of the public, not involved in the case, sitting in the courtroom."

Harris, a published writer and Twitter user, questions how a journalist can be defined, especially as social media’s popularity continues to grow.

“That someone who writes for a magazine such as the National Enquirer, for example, could attend and tweet, but a forensic accountant reporting real-time results of a trial would not be able to doesn’t seem right,” says Harris. “As long as respectfully done, I think that rules for tweeting in the court room should be consistently applied to all those attending. Although writing for the public may not be my primary occupation, writing and social media is a part of doing business. Why shouldn’t I be able to write real-time if others are allowed to do so?”

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