Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Many Key Parts of the Trial Are Hidden from the Public

Despite the roughly 24/7 coverage of Donald Trump's trial, a large amount of what is going on is hidden from the public. Not intentionally, but still hidden. The problem is that the New York State court system operates in the 20th century... no, make that the 19th century. The digital age has not hit the NYS courts. Motions are filed on paper, rulings are made on paper, and nothing is online. If a reporter wants to find out what is going on, he or she has to visit the clerk's office in Lower Manhattan and ask for specific documents to view. In many cases, no one even knows that there are motions and rulings. Even when they do come to light, it is often days after the matter was handled. Some websites that follow legal news, like Lawfare, have created their own shadow dockets where they post the documents they can scrounge up. Remember, the judge's job is not providing copy to the media. It is to run a fair trial, respect the defendant's rights, and follow the law.

One aspect of the case that is 21st century is that Merchan does use e-mail to contact both the prosecution and the defense. We are not sure if the court system has discovered e-mail yet, so maybe the judge just created a gmail account for this purpose. Or maybe he has a private server created by his underlings so that he can negotiate the sale of uranium to Russia. You just never know with these things. In any event, a lot of information is going back and forth and is not on the public record. In addition, all documents are redacted before making them public in any form, to protect the rights of everyone involved. This introduces delay in the system.

In some of the other cases that have not begun yet, the situation is even worse. Merchan allows the reporters in the courtroom and in the overflow room to use their smartphones to live blog what is going on. In Judge Aileen Cannon's courtroom, electronic devices are forbidden, requiring reporters to take notes by hand and enter them in their company's computer by hand afterwards. Georgia is better, since Judge Scott McAfee allows his trials to be televised live. In Georgia, it is the judge's call whether to allow live TV and McAfee is a big fan of transparency, so he usually allows it. However, although Georgia has an online system for filing and viewing documents, it was hit by a cyberattack and is out of service now. (V)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates