A group of journalists and community organizations has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a Maryland law that prohibits people from broadcasting recordings of criminal trial proceedings. The lawsuit is the latest in an ongoing effort to oppose § 1-201 of Maryland’s Code of Criminal Procedure. That provision makes it illegal to broadcast a recording of any criminal “trial, hearing, motion, or argument” held in a trial court, including recordings that were lawfully obtained from court itself.
The plaintiffs argue that § 1-201 violates the First Amendment by barring them from disseminating accurate depictions of public court proceedings. Two of the plaintiffs, journalists Brandon Soderberg and Baynard Woods, hope to use trial recordings in future reporting and in an upcoming documentary about a now-defunct Baltimore police unit whose members were indicted on federal racketeering charges in 2017. Soderberg and Woods lawfully purchased trial recordings directly from the courthouse but are hesitant to use them in their film because of § 1‑201’s broadcasting ban.