The Michigan Supreme Court and State Bar of Michigan recently teamed up to create a virtual courtroom. Now, oral arguments and administrative hearings can be viewed by anyone with internet access at http://www.michbar.org/courts/virtualcourt.cfm.
Summarizing the driving force behind the virtual program, Chief justice Kelly said that it creates openness and transparency. “In a digital age, the public increasingly expects not only physical access, but also virtual access, to government. With this expansion of the Court’s online presence, viewers will need only an Internet connection to watch the Court at work,” she said.
In addition to allowing the public to see what goes on at the Hall of Justice, the program also provides a benefit to appellate practitioners. Although presenting argument before seven Justices can be intimidating, the opportunity for practitioners to view prior arguments heard by the Court offers a unique learning experience.
On the other hand, the ability to watch arguments with the click of a mouse does have one significant drawback: it will now be easier to play "Monday Morning Quarterback." Since the arguments will be posted 24 to 48 hours after they are heard, any party who argues a case can easily--at times painfully--dissect his argument without paying twenty-five dollars to order a DVD copy of argument.
Despite the obvious and inevitable pain of one-click argument review, the ease in doing so is likely to cause more attorneys to evaluate their performance in order to improve their advocacy skills. In the long-run, there is no question that the virtual court will have the added and maybe unintended side-effect of improving oral advocacy in Michigan's appellate courts.