Watch courts in action on The Times website

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HSPA supports a pilot project for webcast coverage of court proceedings in Lake County.

The Times of Northwest Indiana (Munster) will broadcast via its website hearings from Lake Circuit Court, Lake Superior Court Civil Division 2 and Lake Superior Court Civil Division 6.

The Indiana Supreme Court approved the project to give the public direct access to courtrooms over the Internet, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard said.

“Citizens will be able to see for themselves what happens in a courtroom as disputes are resolved,” Shepard said. 

The webcasts will show that technology can allow the public to view the action of a real court without negatively impacting the dispensing of justice, said Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel.

“If the evaluation is successful, it might open the door to a real understanding of how a courtroom operates as opposed to a perception created by television crime dramas,” he said.

The Times proposed the initiative and will pay for webcasting equipment and installation. The paper will provide a link to the webcasts at www.nwi.com during the 18-month project.

The initiative is another step in the evolution of the way newspapers provide news and information to the public on multiple platforms, said Times Managing Editor Paul Mullaney.

“We think allowing the public to view these trials will help demystify the process, provide a better understanding of what goes on in a courtroom and increase the public’s trust in the judicial process,” he said. “We hope the pilot program serves as a springboard to a permanent process.”

Three Lake County judges agreed to participate in the project: Circuit Judge George C. Paras and Superior Court Judges Calvin D. Hawkins and John R. Pera.

“The media informs the public about the decisions rendered by the courts and the impact those decisions have on those who come before the court and society in general,” Paras said. “Therefore, it is necessary for the media to have access to the courts so the public can have confidence that our trials are open and fair.”

Valparaiso School of Law professors and students will evaluate the project. The assessment will include interviews with jurors, witnesses and attorneys.