The Instigator
Pro (for)
8 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Cameras shall placed in courtrooms so that criminal trials can be puclically televised

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/8/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,508 times Debate No: 11362
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (8)
Votes (2)




I am affirmative for the Resolve: Cameras shall placed in courtrooms so that criminal trials can be puclically televised. I will wait for the negative/con to accept this debate and then following their post that ONLY accepts, I will post the 1AC speech and the debate shall begin.

Thanks and good luck!


Being generous, I'll ignore the problematic wording of the motion. For the purposes of this debate, I'm happy to assume the resolution to be functionally equivalent to: "Cameras should be placed in courtrooms so that criminal trials can be publicly televised."

I await dasamster's arguments.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you, Logician. Let's begin.

I would like to first define a term that is used in the resolve, as edited by Logician. Publically, as defined by the Princeton University Dictionary is in a manner accessible to or observable by the public; openly.

My first contention is that placing cameras in court will improve public confidence in the judiciary and the system of justice as a whole. It is difficult to see how the public can have confidence in a system that most of them never see! The judiciary often appears to be a secretive and closed club, open to those involved. The occasional clumsy comments that are made by judges are ridiculed in the media. It is necessary to dispel this unrepresentative image by showing the competence, efficiency, and sensitivity of the majority of judges throughout the legal system. Judges have made efforts to improve their public profile in recent years.

My second contention is that in a democratic society, people have a right of access to courts. Anyone can sit in the public gallery and watch a part or the whole of a trial, or appeal. In Britain, the public is even allowed to attend the highest court in the land, the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords, just as anyone can watch the Supreme Court of the United States in session. There is therefore no constitutional reason why trials should not be televised, if they can be publically viewed. However, at the moment only a few people can take advantage of their rights. As courts sit during the week, it is difficult for people in full-time employment to watch a trial. Travelling to courts across the country is costly. The galleries for the public have only a limited number of spaces. Visitors to well- publicised trials often have to arrive several hours in advance of the hearing in order to ensure a seat. We as the american people, whom created this government, should not have to make such sacrifices of time and money in order to enjoy our democratic rights of which we created. In addition, the events in court are often difficult for non-lawyers to understand. Coverage on television could include a commentary that would make watching a trial a more profitable and educational experience. For those in law school, they can't learn off of old videos, or wing it like Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny. They need to see the current process of court procedures and what it takes to become a part of this system. In the age of the television, and even the internet, we should utilise modern technology to enhance the rights of the citizens.



I thank dasamster for his arguments. To make my post easier to read, I have split it into several sections.


I would firstly like to clarify the burden of proof in this debate: it is on Pro to show that cameras benefit the judicial system as a whole. As Con, I need only show that what dasamster suggests isn't necessary for an effective judiciary. I will also show how allowing cameras into the courtroom actively undermines the justice system, but (although hopefully convincing) it is not strictly necessary for me to do this in order to win this debate.

With that in mind, I move onto...

=== REBUTTAL ===

Dasamster's arguments can be split into four basic strands, which I shall deal with separately.

Before I do so, I point out the interesting nature of the sources which he quoted - more specifically, the first one [1]. The interesting thing is that this is actually a source that argues my side of the debate, and so when I quote from it, not only am I quoting the words of a former Justice of the New York Supreme Court, I am quoting someone who dasamster apparently believes to be authoritative enough to quote himself - thus, my use of his own source against him will prove especially damaging as I lay out my case.

Moving on to dasamster's first argument:

1) That public confidence will be improved

This clearly need not be a speculative question, as the U.S. has had cameras in the courtroom for a long time already - indeed, TruTV (formerly Court TV) was set up for this very purpose in 1991. [2] So for this argument to be effective, dasamster needs to give us some evidence that American public confidence in the judiciary has indeed improved since then. He has not done so. Indeed, retired Justice Siracuse says in the aforementioned source quoted by dasamster himself:

"...we have seen increasing television coverage of trials, not only in New York but across the country. In the same period public confidence in the judicial system -- and, indeed, in the entire legal profession -- has plunged. By any measure one cares to use, the judiciary is held in lower esteem now than at any time within memory." [1]

Dasamster's appeal to an alleged "increase in public confidence" needs to survive this difficulty. It has not yet done so.

2) That the judiciary system suffers ridicule in the media, giving an unrepresentative image of the justice system

I agree that this is the case. However, it isn't clear how this would change under dasamster's proposal - after all, the overwhelming majority of people would not have the time nor inclination to watch the actual court trials themselves. They generally consider themselves to have more important things to do, such as going to work and school, having dinner or watching the football/baseball/other-sport-of-choice. Even those who watch trials on TruTV will generally only have the time/inclination to watch the edited highlights - in other words, the parts deemed by the media to be the most important parts of the trial. This is exactly what they do at present in the courtroom, and any ridicule or unrepresentative image presented at the moment would only continue with trials recorded by camera.

3) People have a right to access the justice system, and so should be allowed to watch court proceedings at a time that suits them.

Yes, people have a right to know what happens in the justice system. Yes, they have a right to transparency. This does not, however, lead to a right for the general public to know absolutely everything about any particular trial: too much information has a dilutary effect. It becomes impossible for them to know what information they need to know, and they become overwhelmed by what's available – this can serve no useful purpose to anyone.

Instead, the general public only have a right to know the salient details: broadly speaking, the key evidence presented, the verdict given, and the reason behind the verdict. This is already given by the media in news and analysis, and by the judge and the courts in published verdicts and court reports. There is no need for cameras in the courtroom.

4) The justice system needs to serve an educational purpose, which is not served without cameras in the courtroom

Dasamster specifies the two types of people who may wish to view court proceedings: non-lawyers and those in law school. But for neither of these groups is it necessary to introduce cameras. To the first group: a commentary for non-lawyers already happens through media reports, and it is not clear why dasamster believes that allowing cameras into the courtroom makes the situation better. Indeed, I've already shown how nothing would ever change if cameras are allowed into the courtroom.

The second group, namely lawyers, already have enough information about what happens in the courtroom! Full transcripts of what transpired in the courtroom are already typed up by stenographers in the court, the reasons behind the judge's verdicts are already publicised and used in law classes, and many law schools have mooting and advocacy practice sessions to prepare the student for public speaking in the courtroom. Plus, after all, the law student will surely be able to supplement this already-extensive experience through actually watching a trial from the public gallery in their spare time... what more preparation could dasamster possibly want law students to have?

I hope it is clear from all of the foregoing why dasamster's arguments fall. I shall now seek to solidify my case by introducing...


The justice system is primarily about ensuring that the right verdict is reached according to the evidence presented: any educational purpose is surely secondary to this goal. As retired Justice Siracuse quotes approvingly in the source used by dasamster himself: "The purpose of the court is not education or spectacle or public entertainment, but justice." [1]

It is surely right that transparency in the justice system is also a key part, but this is already reached through what happens anyway: the use of cameras is not necessary here. Given that it is not necessary, the dangers that surround the use of cameras should serve to warn us away from putting them in the courtroom. These mostly derive from the increased pressure on participants within the trial itself, as naturally, by making intimate court proceedings open to a theoretically infinite audience, more people will see the precise details of what goes on in the courtroom. For reasons of space, I shall deal now mainly with getting witnesses and victims of crime to testify in court, given the importance of this procedure to both sides of the case: to the prosecution, it is important to get eye-witnesses to the crime in order to bolster their case; for the defence, it is important to cross-examine the witnesses to ensure accuracy and consistency in testimony.

It is already difficult to convince witnesses and victims to testify for a variety of reasons, from sensitivity to active or indirect intimidation. This problem has been identified for many decades, and indeed centuries, with one New York Times article (for instance) raising this issue as far back as 1894. [3] Publicising the identifiable faces, mannerisms and actions of witnesses, and thus putting this information into the public domain could only ever serve to increase this problem.

In conclusion, we shouldn't have cameras in the courtroom. It doesn't create any of the benefits that dasamster wants to show, thus his proposition falls; in addition, the consequent active harms only serve to strengthen rejection of this policy. Vote Con.

Debate Round No. 2


I was looking forward to reading Con's speech, and am definitely looking to refute his arguments.

The Con states, while refuting my contention that TruTV was set up for this purpose. If it was for this purpose, then wouldn't the television station still be showing court trials, etc. While researching the history of TruTV, or CourtTV, it stated that it now has transformed into a station which shows "caught on tape" videos; almost abolishing publicly broadcasted court trials and procedures.

The Con states that he does agree with my second contention. But he states that it wouldn't change my proposal. I strongly disagree with the statement that Con has provided. If court trials, etc haven't been on television for some amount of years... how is one to know that people may not want to watch broadcasts of murder trials, or trials that may affect many. I can assure you that many people would have liked to be in the know as to what occurred for Bernie Madoff's embezzlement trial, or even in the trials and court sessions for those who were held accountable for the disastrous September 11th attacks. The con also states that the information to be broadcasted will not be useful to anyone. I am not stating that every single United States citizen should is required to watch it. If Bernie Madoff's trial was on television, I can assure you that 99% of the people would know what he is in court for and on trial for.

And to refute the refutation made by Con for the lawyers and on lawyers gaining access publicly to see court procedures; I am stating that they should watch it because over time, the judicial system changes, procedures change, and it's imperative that they are aware of the change and how to use if effectively in their career and/or future career. If they don't see and learn about changes in our judicial system, is it preparing them for when they graduate law school or when they go to another trial? No. And Con asks how much preparation these lawyers and law students need. I'm sure if you were in a lawsuit fighting for your money, house, etc, that you would want the most educated person to be representing you. Why? So they don't "mess up" any of the court process.

Con also stated that it is already difficult to convince witnesses and victims to testify for a variety of reasons, from sensitivity to active or indirect intimidation. I completely agree with that. But, that is why the U.S. Marshalls in our country have started the Witness Protection Program. The U.S. Marshals Service provides for the security, health and safety of government witnesses, and their immediate dependents, whose lives are in danger as a result of their testimony against drug traffickers, terrorists, organized crime members and other major criminals.

Based on the reasons and rebuttal I have provided, I would like to state that the opinion made by the Con that my proposition fails.. is in fact, void.

Thank you.



I thank dasamster for his response. Upon reading it, it seems that this debate will turn largely into an analysis of the arguments that dasamster originally made in Round 2, rather than new arguments being presented by him and rebutted by me (and vice versa) in every round. Accordingly, I will not present any new substantive matter in this round, and will instead focus on re-affirming both my substantive case and my rebuttal to his arguments, and on showing why his counter-rebuttal is not successful. If, in a later round, dasamster presents new arguments for his case, I will re-consider my approach to this debate accordingly.


As befits the way I set out my rebuttal, dasamster's counter-rebuttal can be read under the headings that I originally presented; I shall thus deal with them in that order:

1) On the question of the improvement of public confidence

Dasamster's dismissal of my rebuttal here is based on, frankly, an entirely false assumption. He asserted that TruTV doesn't show court trials. The falsity of this claim is betrayed by his wording later on, when he asserts that the station has "almost" abolished publicly broadcasted court trials. "Almost" is better than "completely", but still not entirely correct. As the official TruTV website states in its Q&A section:

"Q: Are you still covering trials?
A: Absolutely. Our trial coverage will air under a separate name, IN SESSION, to make this important part of the day stand out from truTV. IN SESSION will be on from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (ET) each weekday. The truTV portion of the day will start at 3 p.m. (ET) and continue into the primetime hours and overnight." [1]

Clearly, there is still a full 6 hours of airtime given on this station to the coverage of court trials. Therefore, contrary to his opposite assertion, dasamster really does – if he wishes his argument to be successful here – need to provide evidence that public confidence in the U.S. justice system has increased... and even if the above were not true, there certainly was court coverage during Court TV's period on the air. So even then, this question of public confidence would not be mere speculation, and requires evidence from dasamster that public confidence increased during Court TV's showing of court trials. I have already shown evidence to the contrary. Until/unless dasamster can contradict and refute this evidence, his argument here fails.

2) On the unrepresentative image of the justice system in the media

His counter-rebuttal here entirely misses the point of my rebuttal. Dasamster's original argument was that courtroom cameras could counteract the current negative portrayal of the justice system in the media, and in response I argued that such negative portrayals are going to happen anyway, regardless of whether there are cameras in the courtroom or not. I specifically analysed how, even with cameras in the courtroom, the general public would have little time or inclination to actually watch trials in their entirety; thus, their understanding of trials would be reduced to edited highlights at best, which are selected and put forward by media stations. Media stations being just as likely to distort this information as put it forward accurately, the problem of misrepresentation is just as likely to happen with cameras than without.

He has not substantively dealt with this criticism. His response was to say that:

"many people would have liked to be in the know as to what occurred for Bernie Madoff's embezzlement trial." [Round 3, Pro]

"People wanting to know the outcome of trials" does not equal "people having a right [or, indeed, wanting] to watch the trials themselves". Indeed, we already know what happened to Bernie Madoff – he was sentenced to 150 years in prison. We already know the key evidence that was presented against him, and the general way in which the trial proceeded. [3] As I said in my rebuttal, to which dasamster has not yet responded:

"the general public only have a right to know the salient details: broadly speaking, the key evidence presented, the verdict given, and the reason behind the verdict." [Round 2, Con]

My further response to this point falls also under my response to point 3), and so I shall move straight on to it.

3) On the ability of lawyers to remain up-to-date

I am simply amazed at dasamster's argument here. He appears to be seriously suggesting that the only way for a lawyer to learn information about the law and court proceedings is to watch a video of such trials taking place. I feel the need only to re-iterate what I believed I had made perfectly clear in Round 2: that videos of court trials are by no means necessary to improve the knowledge and abilities of lawyers. As I said:

"Full transcripts of what transpired in the courtroom are already typed up by stenographers in the court, the reasons behind the judge's verdicts are already publicised and used in law classes, and many law schools have mooting and advocacy practice sessions to prepare the student for public speaking in the courtroom. Plus, after all, the law student will surely be able to supplement this already-extensive experience through actually watching a trial from the public gallery in their spare time." [Round 2, Con]

I add to this, that whilst they are practising, lawyers are (by virtue of it being their job) obliged to keep up with the latest facts and developments in the legal system. If they are not doing so already, I hardly understand why dasamster believes that providing them with video-recordings of trials will make them any more likely to be doing the research that they should be (and are) doing already.

With his treatment both of this argument and of 2), dasamster seems to be labouring under the belief that only through actually watching an incident can one gain true knowledge of it. Applied to other contexts, this would seem to suggest that media reports are never satisfactory - that it is impossible for me to know that Barack Obama (for example) is U.S. President. The only reason I believe this to be true is because of media reports, both online, on TV and in newspapers...but such media would not be enough for dasamster, if he wishes to be consistent in the application of his argument. Re-applied to the issue of court proceedings and trials: media reports, court transcripts and judge verdicts provide more than sufficient detail of a trial. I ask again: why is this extensive provision not enough?

Indeed, not only are there no benefits to dasamster's proposal, but there also exist significant harms that need to be considered before deciding whether it is a good idea to put cameras in the courtroom. I shall now move on to dasamster's consideration of my substantive argument accordingly.

4) My substantive

Dasamster is correct to point out the witness protection that exists in the U.S. at present thanks to the U.S. Marshalls. This does not, however, significantly affect my case – after all, as dasamster himself made clear, the U.S. Marshalls only provide protection to government witnesses. This leaves completely untouched the greater problem that arises with other, potentially more common, crimes: street-level gang warfare, rape, domestic abuse, and so on. These crimes are just as likely to have coercive criminals involved, and just as likely to have witnesses scared out their minds about retribution. Putting their testimony, and appearance on the witness stand, in the public domain, can only serve to increase the likelihood that witnesses will not want to testify. My previous analysis also to this effect still stands.

For all of these reasons, I think it is clear why dasamster's arguments fail to convince. Vote Con.


Debate Round No. 3


dasamster forfeited this round.


Having forfeited this round, dasamster hasn't dealt with my analysis, rebuttal or arguments. Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4


dasamster forfeited this round.


It has been drawn to my attention in another debate that my practice of calling my opponent by his username could be construed as a personal attack. I am very sorry if this indeed has been the case, and apologise profusely for any offence that may have been taken. I hope that both he, and everyone else reading this, will read this not as any attempt of ill-will or malice on my part, but only as an indication of my relative inexperience here on

Nonetheless, my opponent has forfeited this round, and accordingly still not dealt with the re-affirmation of my arguments, or my rebuttals against his arguments. My points therefore still stand, and I win this debate. Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 5
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Logician 7 years ago
Damn...hmm, I'd be tempted to agree. The curses of being British and thus, due to a broken activation system, not being able to vote myself!

And anyway, if you're of that opinion, why exactly did the forces of fate make you see this unfairness only after it was too late to vote? *mumble* *grumble* (lol jk :p)
Posted by Koopin 7 years ago
This debate was unfairly won.
Posted by Logician 8 years ago
Yeah...just realised that I've got a source and number assigned for [2] in Round 3...when I don't actually use the source at all, or quote from it in that round. Oops...I removed the relevant section in the editing stage before posting my argument, and forgot to remove it from my source list...ah well, never mind :)
Posted by Scott_Mann 8 years ago
OH. You're right... I can't read today...
Posted by Koopin 8 years ago
Pro has the BoP. He said "shall" instead of "should"
Posted by Kinesis 8 years ago
He isn't going Pro for a negative...that's not what I meant anyway.
Posted by Scott_Mann 8 years ago
I agree. Going pro for a negative mixes up the debate. I once ended up contradicting myself in a case I wrote at a CDA tournament I went to just because the resolution wasn't very well established.
Posted by Kinesis 8 years ago
Haven't you learned from your debate with Koopin not to phrase the resolution that way?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by dasamster 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:70 
Vote Placed by MeganLoaskia 7 years ago
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