When the pandemic forced many jurisdictions to start live-streaming proceedings from once-cloistered courtrooms, there were a few unforeseen side effects. One was that the work of court watchers — volunteers whose observations are meant to increase transparency from within the justice system and inform advocacy for incarcerated people — got a little easier. Now those who wanted to monitor legal proceedings could tune in from anywhere, widening the pool of participant eyes.
In Prince George’s County, Maryland, which has had a court watch program since February 2020, one of those new, Covid-era volunteers happened to be Fiona Apple, a singer-songwriter famous for her raw lyrics and activism. She joined the advocacy group Courtwatch PG in early 2021. With Covid limiting live performances, Apple spent more than a year watching Maryland bail hearings remotely from her home in California.