Why Are Some Court Cases Closed to the Public

The right to a public trial is strictly enforced, but it is not absolute. Legal proceedings may be regulated in exceptional cases. Closures are decided on a case-by-case basis by the judge assessing an alleged threat to a substantial or legitimate public interest. Whatever the interest involved, the likelihood of that interest being compromised must withstand an “essential probability test”. [1] Examples of cases involving closure issues include organised crime (general security concerns), rape cases (concerns about morality), cases involving minors[2] and, through the witness silence rule and/or the Classified Procedures Act, cases involving sensitive or “classified” information. [3] Nebraska Press Assn. Stuart requires a court to consider less restrictive measures before closing a courtroom entirely. Proceedings before juvenile courts are an exception to the right to public trials. These are usually closed to limit future consequences for the young accused. (Your name is usually removed from court documents for the same reason.) If a juvenile defendant is tried as an adult, he or she is not entitled to such protection. The courts must inform the public about the proceedings, often in a newspaper, but they do not have to be made public.

The notice must not be given more than one or two weeks before the main hearing. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants defendants the right to a public trial. The right can be waived, but a defendant generally cannot escape the public completely. Indeed, courts have concluded that the First Amendment gives the public and the press a right of access to trials. However, if the rights of the defendant conflict with the rights of the public and the media, the rights of the defendant generally take precedence. Although police may have provisionally charged a suspect in a case, prosecutors may decide not to bring formal charges against the person. This means that the case will not go to court. This usually occurs in cases where prosecutors do not believe a trial would result in a conviction, that is, in cases where the evidence is not sufficiently strong.

Although the Supreme Court has not yet directly addressed the issue, most federal district and district courts have ruled that the First Amendment right of access does not extend to audio-visual equipment in the courtroom. In other words, although the public has the right to participate in negotiations, it does not have the right to see them on television. However, many state courts routinely allow television cameras to record and broadcast the trial, although the trial judge has broad discretion to set rules for the recordings to ensure they do not interfere with the defendant`s right to a fair trial or interfere with the trial. The public and the press have a limited right of access to court proceedings and records. There are certain exceptions to public proceedings if the judge determines that publication of the proceedings would pose a substantial risk of harm. This allows them to limit spectators to field staff. However, a judge must consider less restrictive alternatives to closing the courtroom if they adequately protect the defendant`s right to a fair trial and public safety. Alternatives could be to exclude the media from attending the trial or to limit public participation to certain parts of the trial. A Sixth Amendment challenge can occur on appeal if a judge closes the courtroom completely. But before a judge can close a courtroom, he or she must consider all possible alternatives to closing it.

This is a very high standard; The Supreme Court has held that “trial courts are required to consider alternatives to closure, even if they are not proposed by the parties” or by someone else. [5] In other words, a judge who does not want to be removed on appeal must be certain that there can be no alternative to closure that could be raised later by appellate counsel. In the Soviet Union, the terms “public trial” (открытый процесс) and “public trial” (публичный процесс) differed. The term “open procedure” implies the possibility for the public to attend hearings. The term “public process” implied the deliberate presentation of the process to a wide audience. Public trials were usually widely discussed in the media and hearings were often held in larger auditoriums. While Soviet public trials are generally associated with Stalinist-era show trials such as the Moscow trials, in Russian culture, despite the obvious attributes of a show, the term “public trial” did not receive negative connotations, mainly because the publication of any information in the pre-Glasnost era was severely restricted by the Soviet state. The term “show trial” corresponds to the Russian term “показной процесс” (Pokaznoy trial). If a proceeding passes these criteria, there is a right of public access under the First Amendment. However, this right is not absolute.

It is simply a presumption of access. The presumption may be rebutted by showing that the closure of the proceedings preserves an overriding interest and that the conclusion is closely tailored to that interest.

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