Is the Prop 8 Trial Going to Be Televised, Part II

With the trial slated to start next week, it appears the federal court in San Francisco is moving closer to televising the Prop 8 trial.

Variety reported last week that the judge in the case is holding a hearing tomorrow with counsel and others regarding the possibility of televising the case. He has also issued a notice, seeking comment on the idea. Comments are due this Friday.

Prop 8 supporters are beginning to voice their opposition to televising the trial.  At National Review, Ed Whelan called it a “show trial” and repeated the argument that witnesses would fear appearing at the trial if it was televised, concerned about physical and professional retribution by LGBT activists.

These are kangaroo-court procedures. As counsel for the Proposition 8 sponsors spell out in their letters opposing televised proceedings, the fair-trial concerns that animate the Judicial Conference’s opposition to televised proceedings apply with special force in this case. Given all the harassment of Proposition 8 supporters that has already occurred, “it is not surprising,” as counsel’s December 28 letter puts it, that “potential witnesses have already expressed to [counsel] their great distress at the prospect of having their testimony televised” and that “some potential witnesses have indicated that they will not be willing to testify at all if the trial is broadcast or webcast beyond the courthouse.” The likelihood of intensified harassment of counsel is also obvious.

As always, Karen Ocamb at LGBT POV has been covering the Prop 8 trial controversy and she has some interesting excerpts from counsel about televising the trial.

The case against televising the trial is thin, to say the least. The argument that there has been widespread harassment of opponents of same-sex marriage doesn’t really hold up–notwithstanding arguments made by Maggie Gallagher or the Heritage Foundation–and the concern about protecting witnesses and counsel in televised trials historically involved criminal cases where there was fear of organized crime or gang retribution.

I’m a big believer in televised court proceedings, even at the Supreme Court.  Our judicial system isn’t like Law and Order or The Good Wife and citizens are served by having a better understanding of how the courts work.  As journalists–no matter the media–we should be concerned about proceedings that are off-limits to the press and trials are no exception.

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