Georgia Case Against Trump Could Allow Cameras in Courtroom
No television cameras or still photographers captured the first three arraignments of former President Donald J. Trump in Manhattan, Washington and Miami. And that will likely continue when those cases go to trial over the next year or so.
But in Georgia, where Mr. Trump and 18 co-defendants were indicted on Monday, state courts typically permit cameras in the courtroom. That means the sprawling conspiracy case could present the best opportunity for the public to watch the legal proceedings unfold.
“I would expect it, absolutely,” said David E. Hudson, general counsel for the Georgia Press Association. In 40 years of representing the state’s news media, he could not recall one trial that had been closed to cameras, he said.
The judge in the Georgia case, Scott F. McAfee, who was randomly assigned after the indictment was handed up on Monday, has not weighed in on court procedures. But the presumption is in favor of openness.
“Open courtrooms are an indispensable element of an effective and respected judicial system,” states a 2018 order regarding Georgia’s law on recording devices in courtrooms. “It is the policy of Georgia’s courts to promote access to and understanding of court proceedings, not only by the participants in them, but also by the general public and by news media who will report on the proceedings to the public.”
In Georgia, members of the news media must apply to record the proceedings, but most applications are approved, Mr. Hudson said. There may be restrictions, including on photographing the jury or requiring a pool system to avoid overcrowded courtrooms. But even the highest-profile cases have been open, he said.
That stands in contrast to what is expected in the two federal cases against Mr. Trump in Miami and Washington. Federal courts generally do not permit cameras.
It has yet to be determined whether the court in the Manhattan case, related to hush-money payments, will allow cameras, but trials in the New York state court system are not typically broadcast. In the past, the judge in the Manhattan case, Juan M. Merchan, has been reluctant to permit video of proceedings that have involved Mr. Trump.
In the rare occasion that a Georgia judge seeks to close down a courtroom, he or she must offer evidence in a hearing, explaining why recording should be prohibited to protect specific interests, said Derek Bauer, who is head of media litigation at the BakerHostetler law firm and the general counsel of the Georgia Association of Broadcasters.
In practice, closing a courtroom is rarely sought, he said, and state appellate courts have frequently reversed trial court decisions when it has happened.
He also said he did not expect the Trump trial to be closed. “We recognize the importance of open courtroom proceedings in the state of Georgia, particularly in connection with criminal proceedings,” he said.
Daniel Victor is a senior editor for live news based in New York after stints in London and Hong Kong. He joined The Times in 2012. More about Daniel Victor
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