From a Feb. 8 editorial in the Washington Post:
When a federal judge halted President Donald Trump’s immigration executive order earlier this month, the news was at first little more than a terse line on phone screens and cable-news chyrons, implying a thousand unanswered questions, including: Why did District Court Judge James Robart go further than other federal judges had before him in stopping the executive order’s phase-in?
The judge’s written ruling was not very illuminating. But Robart sits in a judicial district that has been experimenting with cameras in the federal courtroom, and every minute of the oral arguments that led to his decision was recorded and released promptly after he ruled. Turns out Robart appeared to be particularly skeptical that Trump’s broad travel restrictions were rationally related to stopping terrorism, noting that he found little evidence that people who have been allowed into the United States from the countries singled out in the executive order pose a unique threat.
To those worried that cameras or microphones in the courtroom would lead to grandstanding and theatrics, Robart’s hearing should have been a comfort. It was a plodding hour of court administrative business, technical questions and statutory references.
To say the federal judiciary has moved toward 21st-century transparency at a snail’s pace would be an insult to snails.
Its role of administering justice and interpreting the law makes the judicial branch different from the political branches, but no less important to Americans who deserve to see – literally – how their government functions.