Trump’s trials must be televised | Opinion
Former U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he makes a visit to the Cuban restaurant Versailles after he appeared for an arraignment in connection with allegations he kept classified documents after leaving office, June 13, 2023, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alon Skuy/Getty Images)
Former president Donald Trump’s federal trial for allegedly conspiring to overturn the 2020 election must be televised into every living room, on every laptop and every iPhone in America, for anyone who wants to see it for themselves.
Everyone in the country, and around the world, should have the opportunity to watch, in real time, the unfiltered presentation of evidence from special counsel Jack Smith and Trump’s legal team, if he chooses to present evidence.
News of the trial should not come exclusively from talking heads and media outlets sometimes biased in their reporting.
Cameras in the courtroom are not new. Court TV and the Law and Crime Network televise live trials at the state level every day. The former president’s latest indictment in Georgia on racketeering charges almost certainly will end up being televised.
The same is not true for federal courts. Cameras in federal courtrooms are exceedingly rare, but not completely unprecedented. Pilot programs in the District Court for the Northern District of California, the District Court of Guam, and the District Court for the Western District of Washington have permitted some civil cases to be televised. Cameras in certain federal civil cases continue in Northern California.
The U.S. Supreme Court had, for over a decade, allowed audio recordings of arguments to be released following a brief delay. During the pandemic, Chief Justice John Roberts authorized the real-time audio of arguments—that policy remains in place today.
Although almost nonexistent in the federal courts, cameras are common in state courts. Only four states—Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Iowa, Delaware—and the District of Columbia do not allow cameras in the court, according to the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA).
Pennsylvania law prohibits coverage of any judicial proceedings and transmission of communications by phone, radio, television, or other advanced communication technology.
However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allows the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN), a public service cable network, to record its proceedings, as well as the state’s intermediate appellate courts, and to broadcast those proceedings after approval.
Trump’s D.C. trial will be conducted in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. Although the D.C. district and circuit courts have not allowed cameras, some federal circuits—federal courts of appeal—have permitted cameras. The Second Circuit allows one unintrusive camera for some proceedings. However, that does not include criminal matters like appeals, motions, or petitions challenging a court ruling.
In March, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced a bill that would permit cameras and live broadcasts. Congress must not stop with the Supreme Court—and Trump’s trial is the impetus to open all courtrooms to public scrutiny. The First Amendment provides the right, but each of us has the responsibility, to shine light into darkness, and that includes our federal courts.
The unprecedented trial of a former president charged with crimes related to the overturning of an election should be available for all Americans to witness.
(Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly and George. P.C. and the former district attorney of Lawrence County, PA. He is the author of The Executioner’s Toll. You can follow him on twitter @MatthewTMangino or contact him at [email protected])
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