Inside the new $550 million San Diego Superior Court building is a secured room where evidence from trials is kept. But that’s not all that was there last month when two reporters working on an investigative report noticed Donald Trump campaign memorabilia on display.
Among other things, there was a picture of Donald Trump affixed to the exit door, as well as bumper stickers and other political items on the filing cabinet clearly in view of anyone visiting this office. No images of the current president were seen.
There are a series of hurdles to gain entry into this room, as the courts are naturally protective of the evidence from cases. This is turf usually reserved for lawyers from both sides of cases, in addition to law enforcement, but journalists can request to review items from a trial as long as all parties agree.
Perhaps this explains why the political bumper stickers and Trump photo were removed not long after our visit last month. According to Superior Court Executive Officer Michael Roddy, “The exhibit room is a relatively private area that does not have significant day-to-day foot-traffic even among court staff.“
The court’s public information officer, Emily Cox, did tell us that “there shouldn’t be political materials of any kind visible in the courthouse.”
She pointed out that the court has a personnel rule that disallows displaying campaign materials. That rule reads, in part:
“Court employees may not engage in activities during working hours that might compromise the integrity of the Court, create a conflict of interest, or even the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Among the barred activities, the rule states, is displaying campaign literature, badges, stickers, or other political advertising items.
In addition to the photo of the former president — with the message “Pray for America” — there were several Trump bumper stickers visible in the courthouse evidence room, along with, a bumper sticker for the ultra-conservative One America News Network and other decals espousing a political position.
Superior Court Presiding Judge Lorna Alske did not respond to a request for comment on the political items in the evidence room.
Said Roddy, “The Court is committed to maintaining neutrality, and political materials of any kind are not appropriate to be publicly posted in any of our courthouses.”
JW August is a San Diego-based broadcast and digital journalist.