How to Watch Court Hearings Online

How to Watch Court Hearings Online

Have you ever wanted to watch a real court case unfold? Thanks to modern technology, it’s now possible to view many public court proceedings online through live streams and video recordings. Watching court hearings online gives you a peek into the judicial process while providing convenience and flexibility. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know, from finding online hearings to understanding what to expect while viewing.

Overview of Online Court Hearings

Court hearings at the federal and state level are increasingly available over the internet. Many court systems have implemented their own systems to live stream oral arguments, trials, appeals, and more on their websites. In addition, media organizations and aggregators frequently provide feeds as a public service.

The accessibility and transparency provided by broadcasting court activity benefits both the legal system itself and those who tune in. However, format, rules, and legal terminology may differ across courts. Those new to viewing should understand the basics of proceedings.

Why Attend Court Hearings Online

Before online access, attending court in person was the only way to observe most judicial proceedings. However, virtual attendance now offers some distinct advantages.

Convenience and Flexibility

The ability to view court cases from a computer or mobile device means easier access for those with packed schedules, mobility issues, childcare needs, or without the ability to travel to physical court locations. Hearings can be streamed live or viewed later at your convenience.

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Understanding the Judicial Process

Watching real courtroom action, including judge and attorney arguments and questioning, provides a valuable perspective. It allows everyday citizens, students, journalists, and anyone interested to better understand legal processes in action rather than just reading about them.

Public Right to Access

Allowing public and media access to court activity ensures transparency and keeps courts accountable. The open judicial process builds trust in legal institutions. Viewing helps satisfy the public interest while avoiding security issues that could occur with overcrowded physical gallery spaces.

How Court Hearings are Broadcast Online

There are a few main ways court proceedings are made available on digital platforms for viewing: official live streams by court systems themselves or live coverage through media and affiliates.

Live Streaming by Court Systems

Many federal courts and state court systems have their own websites and multimedia infrastructure to provide feeds of oral arguments, trials, and motions hearings. Coverage varies across jurisdictions.

Federal Courts

The Supreme Court provides live and archived footage of all oral arguments on its website. Lower federal appellate and district courts are also increasingly implementing cameras for certain proceedings, although policies for streaming differ across circuits.

State Courts

Some state court systems, like California, Texas, and New York, feature extensive coverage of high profile trials and state supreme court activity. But again, access and content varies region to region. Journalists record in certain cases where official feeds are lacking.

Live Streaming by Media

When direct court streams are unavailable, media affiliates often provide timely coverage of hearings, especially those involving public officials or highly controversial issues.

Local News Outlets

Check websites of newspapers, local television stations, radio stations, blogs etc. Local journalists report live on location providing legal analysis and breaking down events as they transpire in regional superior level courts.

National News Networks

Cable channels like CourtTV, CNN, Fox News, C-SPAN, and MSNBC regularly update on certain pending judgements and stream commentary on landmark case decisions as handed down, even when courts themselves do not provide feeds.

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Finding Online Court Hearings to Watch

Here are some tips on locating which public court proceedings are accessible across different digital sources:

Checking Court Websites

The first place to look for available live or archived streams of a specific case is directly on court websites.

Supreme Court Website provides every Supreme Court case transcript argument audio and written decisions from their own database.

Appeals Court Websites

Circuit court websites detail oral argument schedules and access to associated media. For example, C-SPAN lists streams from multiple appellate courts.

District Court Websites

Websites for federal district courts at local levels will clarify if, how, and when civil and criminal hearings may be viewed online. Policies vary by jurisdiction.

Following Local News Sites

Local journalists and media affiliates often broadcast regional superior level court cases even without official court video feeds.

Newspapers and Affiliates

Major metro news and their associated TV/radio station sites cover live hearings important to their communities when permitted, like high profile murders or lawsuits involving celebrities and politicians.

TV Station Websites

Network affiliate websites may feature specific court case coverage if there is strong localized public interest. Local courtroom media requests are more frequently approved than national requests.

Searching Aggregator Platforms

Video sharing platforms and C-SPAN compile publicly accessible court media in central databases searchable by case names and parties.


YouTube has multiple court hearing live stream recordings and archives from a mix of media, educational, and government accounts like CourtTV, PBS, and municipal courts.


Non-profit C-SPAN provides a trusted hub to search and view proceedings from all levels of court, including appellate arguments, via their online Court TV collection.

What to Expect When Watching

Knowing basics around format, players, and decorum helps make following court cases online a smooth viewing experience.

Format and Proceedings

Understand the logistics, participants, and hearing rules before watching a case unfold.

Logistics and Participants

Appreciate what everyone’s roles are; judges, attorneys, jurors, plaintiffs and defendants all serve functions, follow protocols and take oaths very seriously. Note hearing types and outlines presented online so what happens next seems less random.

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Hearing Rules and Decorum

Viewers should maintain same sobriety and respect for judges and court officers online as if sitting in live gallery. Understand that side conversations, emotional outbursts and disruptions may be grounds for contempt of court.

Following Along and Taking Notes

Jot down main legal assertions, arguments, exhibts and key quotes to comprehend cases better and reference later without having to re-watch entire proceedings.

Key Legal Arguments

Determine the crux of plaintiff and defendant cases, writing down each side’s pivotal evidence and precedents backing their version of accusations or disputed events.

Judges’ Questions

Track lines of judicial questioning, underlining which facts judges press on, agree/disagree with, or challenge attorneys to clarify to inform or telegraph eventual rulings.


Summary of Main Points

Modern court systems are embracing technology to broadcast proceedings, offering convenience for public viewership and civic education on real legal processes playing out through court arguments and evidence presentations. Those interested now have expanded access, but should still respect court decorum when spectating online. Finding feeds takes some searching across court, news, and aggregator platforms based on case specifics and jurisdictional policies. Expect legal complex language and protocol unfamiliar to non-lawyers. But following along as events unfold makes judicial decisions seem less arbitrary.

Final Thoughts on Access

Court transparency via live streams and recordings not only satisfies public interest and right to access. It serves justice through accountability, civic education, ensuring fairness and ethics. So take advantage of this window made possible by progress, technology and democratic ideals. Tune in from anywhere to watch court hearings online.


Q: What are some reasons I might want to watch a court hearing online?

A: Reasons include convenience, understanding legal processes, exercising the public right to access, researching case law, civic education, and gaining insight on high profile issues.

Q: How can I locate an online feed for a specific court case?

A: Check official court system websites, local news affiliate sites covering the case, or search video aggregators like YouTube and C-SPAN for recordings and archives.

Q: What court has cameras that show all their cases arguments and decisions?

A: As of now, only the U.S. Supreme Court provides camera access to all their oral arguments and readings of rulings. Other federal and state courts vary in online access rules.

Q: Is there a way to watch jury trials online?

A: Very rarely, as protection of jury impartiality and privacy limits broadcasting. Audio broadcasts post-verdict occur more often at trial judge discretion.

Q: Who typically provides courtroom video camera feeds online?

A: Court systems themselves, media partners and journalists, educational institutions, and public interest groups all provide various levels of courtroom proceedings on the internet.

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