If criminal or civil charges are brought against Donald Trump, one key procedural question will be whether the trial proceedings can be broadcast on television and live-streamed online. There are arguments on both sides of the issue.
This article examines the factors judges consider in allowing courtroom cameras and analyzes the potential legal and ethical implications of televising a Trump trial.
Background on Cameras in Courtrooms
- Traditional ban – Cameras used to be banned from federal courtrooms, though some exceptions emerged for high-profile cases like the OJ Simpson trial ().
- Pressure to expand access – In the 1990s and 2000s, major media outlets began pushing for expanded camera access in courtrooms. They argued broadcasting served the public interest ().
- State courts lead the way – Many state courts began permitting cameras and live coverage of proceedings. However, the federal system moved cautiously ().
- Pilot programs – In 2010, the federal judiciary began pilot programs experimenting with cameras in certain district courts ().
- Supreme Court holdout – While lower courts now may allow cameras, the Supreme Court still prohibits any video recording or photography during oral arguments or announcements ().
Factors Judges Consider on Courtroom Cameras
Upholding Fair Trial Rights
- Judges want to avoid filming that might bias or influence the jury and undermine fair trial protections ().
- If cameras make jurors feel additional pressure, it could jeopardize upholding court rights.
- Judges may seek to prevent lawyers or witnesses from grandstanding to the cameras during live proceedings ().
- Courtroom drama for the cameras could detract from sober proceedings.
Protecting Plaintiff/Defendant Rights
- Judges consider whether cameras might infringe on the rights of plaintiffs or defendants who may face reputational or privacy harms ().
- Individuals on trial could argue cameras violate their due process.
Historical Precedent in Big Trials
- In modern history, major trials like OJ Simpson’s were televised while others like the Derek Chauvin trial were live-streamed ().
- These demonstrate how cameras have been implemented in prominent cases before.
Serving the Public Interest
- Judges balance rights against public interest in transparency on matters of national significance ().
- Letting citizens view major trial proceedings could promote legitimate policy goals.
How These Factors Might Apply to a Trump Trial
Unavoidable Public Interest
- A trial of a former U.S. President would automatically constitute an event of major public concern ().
- It would set precedent on holding presidents accountable and interpreting the Constitution.
Trump’s Preference Unclear
- Trump may oppose cameras to avoid scrutiny or want them to rally his supporters ().
- As the defendant, his preference would weigh on the judge’s decision but not control it.
Media Pressure Likely Intense
- Major news networks would lobby intensely to cover a Trump trial live, arguing overwhelming public import ().
- However, the judge would still need to determine if cameras could compromise fairness.
Protections May Be Necessary
- Juror anonymity and witness face-obscuring may be implemented to protect trial rights ().
- Other options are time-delayed broadcasts or restricting sources of footage.
There are reasonable arguments that televising any criminal or civil trial involving Donald Trump would provide necessary transparency and accountability on matters of profound civic importance.
However, considerations around due process, privacy, and trial integrity still necessitate thorough judicial analysis of whether and how to permit cameras in the courtroom in any specific case. The unprecedented nature of such a trial makes predicting the outcome challenging.
Ultimately, the presiding judge will weigh both constitutional rights and public interest in determining camera access if a Trump trial occurs.
- United States Courts. “A History of Cameras in Courts” https://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/judicial-administration/cameras-courts/history-cameras-courts
- C-SPAN. “Cameras in the Court” https://www.c-span.org/special/?type=courts
- American Bar Association. “How State and Federal Courts Approach Cameras in the Courtroom” https://www.americanbar.org/groups/judicial/publications/judicial_policy_making/how-states-federal-courts-approach-cameras-courtroom/
- United States Courts. “Pilot Project Allows Cameras in District Courts” https://www.uscourts.gov/news/2011/07/15/pilot-project-allows-cameras-district-courts
- Reuters. “Why Cameras Don’t Show Supreme Court Arguments” https://www.reuters.com/legal/government/why-cameras-dont-show-supreme-court-arguments-2021-04-23/
- Indiana Law Journal. “Media Access to the Courtroom in the Information Age” https://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/ilj/vol85/iss4/5/
- Berkeley Law. “Pros & Cons of Allowing Courtroom Cameras” https://www.law.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2016-Pros-Cons-Courtroom-Cameras.pdf
- Harvard Law Review. “Reconsidering the Federal Judiciary’s Communications Policies in Light of the Proposed Pilot Program for Cameras in District Courtrooms” https://harvardlawreview.org/2010/06/reconsidering-the-federal-judiciarys-policies-in-light-of-the-proposed-pilot-program-for-cameras-in-district-courtrooms/
- ABC News. “How courts have handled high-profile cases in the pandemic era, from Chauvin to Arbery” https://abcnews.go.com/US/courts-handled-high-profile-cases-pandemic-era-chauvin/story?id=77879320
- Brennan Center for Justice. “It Should Be Televised: Cameras in State Supreme Courts” https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/it-should-be-televised-cameras-state-supreme-courts
- Washington Post. “The Arpaio Pardon and the Question of Who Can Be Above the Law in America” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2017/09/01/the-arpaio-pardon-and-the-question-of-who-can-be-above-the-law-in-america/
- The Atlantic. “The Circus Around Trump’s D.C. Trial” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/10/trump-special-master-dearie/671695/
- Poynter. “If Donald Trump goes on trial, media outlets will fight to broadcast it” https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2022/if-donald-trump-goes-on-trial-media-outlets-will-fight-to-broadcast-it/
- Los Angeles Times. “The Derek Chauvin trial shows how far court transparency has come” https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2021-03-30/derek-chauvin-trial-court-tv-cameras-livestream-george-floyd
Hi y’all, I’m Caroline Webster, your proud Texan source for everything related to our 45th president, Donald Trump, and the GOP.
Along with my husband, Bill, I run Trump Scoop, born out of our ranch in the Lone Star State, offering insightful and unbiased commentary on conservative politics.
With a degree in Political Science and years immersed in local politics, my aim is to keep our readers informed and connected.
For me, it’s not just about delivering news—it’s about standing up for our values and the spirit of American patriotism.