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How Antiquated NY Courts Prevent Access To Trump Trial Documents

The criminal trial of former President Trump is getting 24-hour media coverage, but much of the case is happening in the dark. Cameras are banned in the courtroom, and lesser-known peculiarities of the court’s procedures have made critical aspects of the case opaque, reports Politico. A maze of arcane rules and archaic systems has made it virtually impossible for the media — and the public — to access key motions and pretrial rulings in real time. New York’s docketing practices have not been updated for the digital age. Justice Juan Merchan has imposed policies that force days or even weeks of delays before crucial documents become public. When they do, they have been subject to a heavy, court-imposed redaction process. Merchan frequently uses email to communicate with Trump’s defense lawyers and prosecutors. That’s led to a ballooning set of off-the-book messages that are shielded from the public.


Some challenges with keeping the public apprised of developments in the case are baked into New York state courts’ antiquated procedures. New York state criminal court doesn’t have an online docket; the only way to see many documents filed in the case is by visiting the clerk’s office in person in Lower Manhattan or requesting each filing from the district attorney’s office or Trump’s lawyers. While the judge publicly set some deadlines for certain filings, others happen without warning, meaning anyone interested in seeing them wouldn’t know to request them. That has resulted in makeshift efforts to compensate for the lack of an online docket in a case with such intense public interest. The district attorney’s office has regularly sent out its filings to reporters, and Trump’s lawyers have begun posting theirs on the website of his lead attorney, Todd Blanche. Court officials have posted a handful of the judge’s rulings on the court website, along with a small selection of other filings from the lawyers..

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