A coalition of media outlets, including C-SPAN, CBS News, ABC News and CNN, are seeking some sort of video and audio access to the courtroom when Donald Trump goes on trial on election conspiracy charges next year.
Their application for access, filed in federal court on Thursday, is still a bit of a longshot given the long-standing prohibition that the district courts have had on electronic recording of criminal proceedings. Read the application.
In the filing, Chad Bowman and other attorneys for the coalition wrote that “the prosecution of a former President, now a presidential contender, on charges of subverting the electoral process, presents the strongest possible circumstances for continuous public oversight of the justice system.
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They added, “That oversight, rooted in decades of First Amendment precedent and sound judicial policy, will be functionally illusory without audiovisual access to these proceedings. Through counsel, Trump has repeatedly spoken out about the importance of cameras in the courtroom in this case. For his benefit, and that of the Court and the public, real-time audiovisual coverage will be a critical step in stemming false conspiracy theories across the entire spectrum of public opinion, regardless of the trial’s outcome.”
The proposal is live broadcasting from the courtroom of further proceedings in the case, subject to court guidelines, or that the court “contemporaneously publish on YouTube its internally administered audiovisual livestreams and recordings of the proceedings.” A final alternative is that the court release audio and visual recordings at the end of each day. The court has been providing a video feed of the court proceedings to an overflow and media courtroom.
The coalition attorneys noted that prosecutors oppose the request, but that attorneys for Trump have not responded.
The attorneys wrote, “We have never, in the history of our Nation, had a federal criminal trial that warrants audiovisual access more than the federal prosecution of former President Trump for allegedly trying to subvert the will of the people. The central purpose of the constitutional right of access the law that governs here is to ensure fair trials and to promote confidence in the justice system. Broadcasting the trial proceedings in this case will clearly advance that interest.”
A letter also was sent to the Judicial Conference, requesting that federal rules of procedure be changed to allow for the broadcasting of criminal proceedings or to at least make an “extraordinary case” exception. Read the letter.
The media coalition cited the public interest in the impeachment and trial proceedings against Trump, the January 6th Committee hearings and the indictment of Trump and 18 co-defendants on Georgia state charges. “Each of these other proceedings against Mr. Trump have been or will be televised,
and the public has watched,” they wrote. Trump’s Georgia trial also will be televised, so far the only one of his criminal proceedings in which such access has been granted.
The media attorneys also tried to counter concerns over privacy and sensationalism. They cited another high profile case that was televised, the Derek Chavin trial in Minneapolis, with the broadcasts winning over judges and other skeptics who worried about the intrusive nature of the cameras.
They wrote, “Allowing cameras at Mr. Trump’s trial will not increase the publicity it receives, noting that Trump’s attorney “already is regularly appearing on national news syndicates to present his client’s case, and the case is already a presidential campaign talking point.”
“Without doubt, the public and media will be closely watching the D.D.C. trial, regardless whether cameras are present,” they wrote. “If the trial is not televised, secondhand extrajudicial interviews and summaries will be the only information that the public receives. Cameras simply ensure that Americans can see what transpires for themselves.”
The media coalition includes Advance Publications, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Dow Jones & Company, publisher of The Wall Street Journal; the E.W. Scripps Company, which operates Court TV; the Los Angeles Times; the National Association of Broadcasters; the National Press Photographers Association; News/Media Alliance; The New York Times Company; Politico; Radio Television Digital News Association; Society of Professional Journalists; Tegna; Univision Networks & Studios and The Washington Post.
While media outlets and some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are pressing for camera access, federal judges have been loathe to stray from current procedure. The Judicial Conference last month loosened some restrictions on access for civil and bankruptcy cases but not criminal proceedings.
The judge in Trump’s New York civil fraud case denied media access to the proceedings, but he has allowed a pool of cameras in the courtroom to briefly take shots of the scene. Cameras also have been allowed just outside the courtroom, where Trump, who attended on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, weighed in multiple times.
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