The editorial drumbeat for courtroom cameras

In the wake of the Bill Cosby retrial, which was not televised due to a ban on cameras in Pennsylvania state courts, the Scranton Times-Tribune has editorialized:

[T]he fundamental premise of the United States is that it is a nation of laws ā€” the notion that the law applies to everyone and that no one is beyond its reach. Yet the state government and in most cases, the federal government, regularly take passes on the opportunity to demonstrate that philosophy as it unfolds in the real world of the courtroom.

When a cultural figure like Cosby or a high-ranking public official, like former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, or an important civic issue such as taxation or gerrymandering ends up in court, cameras should be there to bring citizens into the courtroom to observe the process and watch history as it happens.

Courts long resisted cameras on grounds that they would be disruptive. But technology long ago resolved that problem. Pennsylvania and federal courts should allow televised trials and other proceedings. Doing so would enhance civics education at a time when it is sorely needed.

Meanwhile, UC Berkeley Dean Erwin Chemerinsky has made a similar argument with respect to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Not every courtroom needs a camera, and not every case or hearing is appropriate for public broadcast. But blanket prohibitions on cameras, especially with respect to cases of broad public interest, are increasingly difficult to justify.

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