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California Supreme Court to Stream Oral Arguments Starting in May

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on March 10, 2016 10:58 AM

In a culture shift aimed to improve fairness in the state's judicial system, California's highest court is set to start streaming oral arguments online, according to the Associated Press. This development is also partly a response to a significant reduction in funds to California's courts.

Transparency in an Unfair System

Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the Chief Justice of California Supreme Court, announced the court's plan to stream oral arguments starting in May in San Francisco. The initial Los Angeles session will be delayed slightly because of technology hiccups.

"We are a branch now made leaner by the greatest recession of California's history. We endured, and we've changed for the better," she said in her fifth "State of the Judiciary" speech to California's legislature and jurists.

Chief Justice Cantil-Satauye has been using her annual speeches to lawmakers as a soapbox to shine a light on poverty and imbalances in the court system. Her address last Tuesday was no different. Her speech also called generally for an examination of bail, and how bail has generally failed in terms of fairness because bail disproportionately weighs heavily on the disenfranchised and impoverished. Bail, in fact, unfairly penalized the poor which only further encouraged recidivism.

A Revenue Stream

She has also questioned the system's reliance on court fines and fees as a means of keeping the law enforcement engine greased. And because fees and fines are typically paid more so by those who have little education and lesser means to pay, the justice system is essentially funded by those who'd find themselves stuck within its gears. "We must not penalize the poor," she said, "for being poor."

Whether streaming oral arguments will make any meaningful difference in the judicial system's fairness is a matter of speculation. However, it certainly couldn't hurt.

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