The courts remain our least open institution. Twitter has helped change that, as reporters are able to send updates throughout the day from inside the courtroom. For instance, a phalanx of media is now live-tweeting every moment of the James J. "Whitey" Bulger trial.

Then there is Judge Peter Lauriat, who last winter presided over the case of Nathaniel Fujita, convicted in March of murdering his girlfriend. Lauriat had no problem with television cameras or even live-blogging — but he drew the line at Twitter.

According to Robert Ambrogi, a lawyer who is also executive director of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, Lauriat initially banned Twitter from anywhere inside the Middlesex Superior Courthouse in Woburn. He later backed off and allowed tweeting from a separate media room, but not from the courtroom itself.

“The ban on tweeting drew the unavoidable question: What’s the difference?” asked Ambrogi. The answer is unclear.

David Riley wrote at the Wicked Local Blog that Lauriat was concerned that jurors were more likely to run across a tweet by accident than another form of media.

Jeff Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project, reported that Lauriat expressed doubts about the quality of journalism when reduced to 140-character updates, and about his inability to prevent attendees who had not registered as journalists from firing up Tweetbot on their smartphones.

None of these were good enough reasons to ban what has become a vital news medium. Lauriat acted as he did because he could. He shouldn’t have had that option.