Camera-shy federal judges are rarely seen announcing decisions on television. Viewers online and on television saw Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart announcing that he was halting President Trump’s immigrant travel ban. (Click here for video.) By happenstance, his court is one of only three federal courts that extended a cameras-in-court pilot program that expired in 2015, reports the National Law Journal. Last year the U.S. Judicial Conference continued the camera ban. It allowed three courts (in Washington state, California and Guam) to continue allowing cameras to provide longer-term data about the pros and cons of camera access.
Robart also presided over United States v. Seattle, a case involving alleged excessive use of force by Seattle police. On six occasions, video of the proceedings was released, including last year’s session in which he made headlines by stating, “Black lives matter.” Now, with the even wider broadcast of Robart’s hearing and decision on the travel ban, the Judicial Conference will have a high-profile example of camera access to determine whether cameras are good or bad. Gabe Roth of Fix the Court, which advocates greater transparency in federal courts, said the broadcast of Robart’s proceedings “conveys its gravity through a medium that a majority of people—young and old, via online video or the evening news—get their information. As the judicial branch’s role in holding the republic together grows, other federal courts should follow the [Washington federal court’s] lead.”