Trial court judges in 2020 were faced with a remarkable new problem. They were asked to accommodate both public health concerns (preventing trial participants, jurors, and spectators from contracting COVID-19) and criminal defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. As courts of appeal begin their review of cases alleging violations of the Sixth Amendment’s right to a public trial arising during the early pandemic, they should be careful to consider conditions as they were at the time. We have learned much about COVID-19 and its management since then. But reviewing courts should not demand that trial courts possess public health expertise (or information) they did not have in 2020.
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