Courthouse News Service, a national news publication that reports on state and federal level legal proceedings, is suing an Idaho court administrator for refusing to provide reporters with same-day access to legal proceedings.
The Fourth Circuit just revived a lawsuit challenging a Maryland statute that prohibits individuals from broadcasting courtroom audio transcripts. Says "lawfully obtained recordings cannot constitutionally be punished ‘absent a need to further a state interest of the highest order.'"
On May 5th, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court — the highest court in Massachusetts — ruled that a virtual suppression hearing conducted via Zoom violated neither the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights nor the public’s First Amendment right to access court proceedings. Nevertheless, the court reversed the trial judge’s ruling that had rejected the defendant’s motion for a continuance.
Most court opinions are made publicly available under the First Amendment so that people can understand what the law is and have trust in the judicial process. That is not the case for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) which decides when government agencies can spy on suspected foreign agents, and can sometimes target American citizens as well.
Public access to the judicial system is a necessary element in a constitutional democracy. The idea behind “We the People”—the notion that the people are sovereign—assumes that the people govern their institutions. This teachers guide discusses access to courts, including how court access is faring during the COVID-19 crisis; the development of access to criminal trials; the importance of both the First Amendment right of access and the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial; the clash between the First Amendment and the Sixth Amendment concerns over a fair trial; the qualified right of access to civil court proceedings; the dangers of “secret justice”; and cameras in the courts.
The Hartford Courant has a qualified First Amendment right of access to the criminal proceedings of juveniles who are transferred to adult criminal court, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. In July 2019, Connecticut passed a law that increased confidentiality for those cases transferred from juvenile courts to adult courts.
The state finally struck down a rule that media lawyers and court reporters say caused long delays in accessing court records. “It made me feel gratified and proud of the judicial system, because the justices value transparency and they took concrete steps to make sure Florida’s courts are open,” one lawyer told Courthouse News.