SCOTUSblog (a.k.a. the Greatest Blog on Earth) last night posted this very interesting piece (updated this afternoon) about an effort to stop the You Tube broadcast of U.S. district court proceedings in the suit challenging Proposition 8 — the gay marriage ban.  

A similar effort to make a court-martial proceeding available on You Tube would be impossible. R.C.M. 806(c) provides:

Video and audio recording and the taking of photographs – except for the purpose of preparing the record of trial – in the courtroom during the proceedings and the radio or television broadcasting of proceedings from the courtroom shall not be permitted.

 Is that a sensible prohibition?  Many people who won’t be able to be in Norfolk tomorrow (myself included) would be interested in watching the Article 39(a) session in the Huertas case.  Why should it be impossible for anyone who isn’t in Norfolk tomorrow to see those proceedings?  Making the proceedings generally available could certainly lead to a more informed public since much of the media coverage of the SEALs cases appears to include false information.  There will also be enormous public interest in proceedings in the Hasan case.  Is there a reason why the public shouldn’t be able to watch those proceedings over the Internet?

I’m a fan of the military justice system. I think that greater public exposure to the system would tend to increase public confidence in court-martial proceedings.

Should R.C.M. 806(c) be revoked? Should the recording and broadcast of trial proceedings be left to the military judge’s discretion? Should R.C.M. 806(c) be revised to allow the recording and broadcast of court-martial proceedings? To quote Linda Richman, discuss.

8 Responses to “CAAFlog Talk: Should the media be allowed to broadcast court-martial proceedings?”

  1. Phil Cave says:

    And in view of the likelihood there’s limited seating, because all the seating will be taken up by media and the NLSO people. And that assumes you even get past the quarterdeck.

  2. Anonymous says:


    Having the media there and video taping are two different issues. Pleanty of States videotape their proceedings, the media doesn’t have to be in the court room to use the feed. Some States require it, one camera fixed on the judge, the other on the defendant.

    I’m a fan for all court proceedings being videotaped, my State bans them (they ban cameras on police too, a lot to hide). It would aid post-appellate issues were something was left out of the record. Although sometimes the best way to look at a case is in black and white letters than listening to a witness with an axe to grind cry crocodile tears.

  3. Phil Cave says:

    I’m sorry, Anon 1403, I wasn’t clear.
    I’m a supporter of cameras in court.
    My point was that the court-rooms are already small. They’ve already announced taking media reservations.
    So, the general public is likely to be excluded because by the time you get the media and then the NLSO folks in CR #1, there won’t be space for the general public.
    And, getting past the guardians at the quarterdeck will be interesting — “And what is your business here?” “I’m here to observe.” “Do you have business here?”

  4. Some Army Guy says:

    I don’t want broadcasts of courts-martial.

    I believe that the airing of trials too often fundamentally changes the nature of the proceedings — by making the focus of the trial (and even the judge) the public and not the jury.

  5. Southern Defense Counsel says:


    I thought the same thing at first, but then I really thought about it, and came up with this response: most trials are boring. It would be unlikely that the public would care about a UA dive. And those that aren’t boring have a media circus surrounding them anyway that allows for widespead speculation and little to no “facts”. I wonder if it might be better to try to innoculate the participants from the idea of being on camera by making it SOP. Like COL Sullivan, I am in favor of making the system more open whenever possible.

  6. Kick it Old School says:

    Televised courts-martial combined with grandstanding civilian counsel engaged in meaningless courtroom theatrics to impress their current and future clients is almost too horrible to comprehend . . . .

    The printed word is the thinking man’s way to digest news and information. A court-martial does not need to become home to the Dancing Ito’s.

    My vote – kick it old school.

  7. CAAFlog » SCOTUS stays You Tube broadcast of U.S. district court proceedings says:

    […] the weekend, we noted plans to broadcast U.S. district court proceedings in the Proposition 8 case over You Tube.  On […]

  8. John Harwood says:

    I agree with Old School – I think the theatrical element that sometimes creeps into courts-martial will become a frequent element of our trials. That’s a bad thing.