Judge Cancels Unexpectedly Viral Live-Stream Hearings, Michigan Supreme Court Wants Them Back

Michigan's 3B District Court has announced the end of the daily court live-streams which previously sent them viral. But now the Michigan Supreme Court has said they should be brought back for judicial transparency.

3B District Court went viral just last week, May 11, after a defendant entered the live-streamed court hearing under the name "Buttf*****3000." The clip was subsequently posted on various social media platforms by entertained viewers.

The name mishap was the second time the court's live-stream had gone viral, after a March hearing showed an assault suspect in the same room as the victim and witness, which is explicitly not allowed.

Assistant prosecutor Deborah Davis noticed that the witness was looking to the side during the call, while the suspect was also looking around the room. The zoom call then captured police arresting the suspect during the hearing.

Judge Jeffrey Middleton announced in a live-stream on May 17 that the live-streamed court hearings were to come to a swift end, as he claims was suggested by the Michigan Supreme Court.

"The Supreme Court are the ones who told us to start the YouTube live feed some year ago, and I thought 'If they're the ones that told me to start it, I guess I should listen to them when they tell me to stop it'," said Judge Middleton during the live-stream.

However, Michigan Supreme Court's communication's director, John Nevin, clarified to Newsweek that this was not their intention: "The State Court Administrator has urged Judge Middleton to reconsider his decision. Live-streams of court proceedings have been critically important to maintaining public access to the judiciary while court buildings have been closed to protect public health.

"Just like school board meetings or city council sessions, court hearings on YouTube keep the public informed and educated. That's why the Supreme Court intends for this increased transparency to continue."

The live-streams began in May 2020, after courts turned to using Zoom during the pandemic. As ordered by the Michigan Supreme Court at the time, YouTube live-streams began as a way to remain transparent during Zoom hearings, as public court hearings allow people to watch.

Judge Middleton pointed to the viral videos as one of the reasons for the end of the broadcasts, with fears of the streams being used for entertainment instead of the intended educational purposes. Many clips from the court hearings have been posted to the popular subreddit "Zoom Court" in recent months, with over 21,000 members.

After 3B District Court went viral in March, they were ordered to remove the comments feature from the live-stream. However, Judge Middleton explained that doing so made another reason to end the streams, as it takes "15 steps" to remove it, making it "cumbersome."

Victims, suspects and witnesses were the people who elevated the hearings to viral-levels, but they were also pinpointed as part of the decision to end the broadcasts.

"No one asked them 'What do you think about being broadcasted on YouTube and having '1.5 million hits,' so that's the downside of this," explained Judge Middleton.

As with most things that go viral online, the videos also caused an influx of negative responses, according to Judge Middleton. In the live-stream he explained: "This morning I got a call, someone left a message on our answering machine that I was 'deplorable,' so I guess it's hard to please everyone."

In the year since it started, the 3B District Court broadcasts had amassed a regular large following, which has been clear to see in the response following their cancellation.

"A footnote in history, sure. However, someday I will be telling my grandkids about Zoom court and its shenanigans. A happy end to an era," commented one Reddit user.