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Fiona Apple Pushes Maryland Courts to Keep Cameras On

When Prince George’s County cut off video access to bail hearings, officials got an earful from volunteer court watchers, including the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter. 

Singer-songwriter Fiona Apple has been a high profile advocate for court transparency in Maryland.  

Singer-songwriter Fiona Apple has been a high profile advocate for court transparency in Maryland.  

Photographer: Natalie Behring/Getty Images North America

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.