Former President Donald Trump gestures Tuesday as he walks into...

Former President Donald Trump gestures Tuesday as he walks into the Manhattan criminal courthouse. Credit: AP/Brendan McDermid

One timely telephone call from a key state senator prompted New York's court system to take an unprecedented step: publishing daily transcripts for free from Donald Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan.

A watchdog group and a nonprofit newsroom had filed a motion with the court requesting free transcripts be made available — typically, the transcripts can cost hundreds of dollars per day. Both groups cited public interest in the trial and Trump’s attempts to influence it as reasons for the request.

On Friday, State Senate Judiciary Chairman Brad Hoylman-Sigal called New York Chief Judge Rowan Wilson to break with custom and make the transcripts available on the court website. By Monday, it was done.

“I spoke to the chief judge after I had been alerted to the issue,” Hoylman-Sigal (D-Manhattan) said in an interview Tuesday. “He was extremely understanding and moved quickly to fix the problem.”

In making the announcement, the Office of Court Administration, which manages the state’s sprawling court system with Wilson, said publishing the transcripts was in the “interest of the public good.”

“This historic case, which has generated unparalleled public interest, calls for this historic step by the court system,” First Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Norman St. George said.

The motion to publish the transcripts was made by lawyers for Common Cause, a watchdog group, and NYS Focus, a nonprofit newsroom. In part, they reference Trump’s attempts to influence the trial and its coverage: “As the case proceeds, millions of Americans with no ability to attend the trial will be getting secondhand accounts of it from outlets they do not trust and simply will not believe.”

Hoylman-Sigal said he now wants to advance legislation to make all court transcripts free, since New York doesn’t allow cameras in its courtrooms.

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