Fetch the Zoom feed: Fiona Apple backs restoring video access to MD court proceedings

Published 1/26/2023 8:13 p.m. EST, Updated 1/27/2023 9:28 a.m. EST

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 16: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been digitally converted to black and white.) Fiona Apple and Matt Chamberlain perform at I Am The Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell at the Forum on January 16, 2019 in Inglewood, California.

Fiona Apple, the three-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, has offered her support for a proposal that would require video access to all public court proceedings in Maryland.

Apple, who has served as a trained court watcher in Prince George’s County over the last two years, submitted a letter of support for the legislation cross-filed in the House of Delegates and Senate.

“This legislation would make Maryland leaders on the way to a more just, transparent, and accountable system that will protect the trust of the public you are meant to serve,” she wrote. “It is constitutional, it is available, and it is the right thing to do.”

The bills would require each appellate court, circuit court and district court in the state to provide “remote audio-visual public access to all public court proceedings,” with certain exceptions, and gives judges the ability to allow people who are not involved to participate in proceedings remotely if they can show “good cause.”

Del. David Moon, a Montgomery County Democrat and one of the sponsors of the House legislation, said in a hearing Wednesday that after a similar proposal did not pass last year, the Maryland Judiciary came up with a recommendation that courts provide audio access.

This bill would require the restoration of Zoom and similar services, which were provided during the COVID-19 pandemic after proceedings were pushed online.

Although Apple doesn’t live in Maryland, she has worked closely with Courtwatch PG, a group that aims to “hold judicial actors accountable for injustice in the court system,” according to its website.

In her letter, dated Tuesday, Apple wrote that the audio currently provided can “hardly be called access,” noting its sometimes poor quality.

Calling for video access, she wrote that “it’s very hard to see what the hold up is, unless the government of Maryland wants to hide what is happening inside its courtrooms the way a bad police officer wants to turn off his body camera.”

She also read the letter aloud in a post shared on Twitter by Scott Hechinger, the founder of a group called Zealous, which helps public defenders and legal activists boost their advocacy.

Apple previously voiced support for a lawsuit filed last July by nine plaintiffs in Prince George’s County who claimed they were held illegally before their trials, even after a judge ordered them released.

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She and other court watchers filed affidavits in support of the lawsuit detailing what they saw, the singer said in a nearly 10-minute video posted to social media in October, which aimed to raise awareness about the pretrial release process in the county. Apple and advocates argued the process could affect hundreds of detainees ordered released before trial.

In the video, she accused Maryland courts of cutting off her and other court watchers’ Zoom access in retaliation for supporting the suit.

“Why did they take away this access right after this lawsuit was dropped? It really seems like they’re retaliating against us,” Apple said.