C. Jury records

Overview

The Supreme Court indirectly addressed the right of access to voir dire transcripts, noting that in the unusual circumstance where voir dire must be held behind closed doors, “the constitutional values sought to be protected by holding open proceedings may be satisfied later by making a transcript of the closed proceedings available within a reasonable time, if the judge determines that disclosure can be accomplished while safeguarding the juror’s valid privacy interests.” Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court (Press-Enterprise I), 464 U.S. 501, 512 (1984). The Third Circuit expanded on this in U.S. v. Antar, 38 F.3d 1348, 1360 (3rd Cir. 1994), noting “[i]t would be an odd result indeed were we to declare that our courtrooms must be open, but that transcripts of the proceedings occurring there may be closed, for what exists of the right of access if it extends only to those who can squeeze through the door?” In addition to the First Amendment access right, the court found that “the transcript at issue is a public judicial document, covered by a presumptive right of access” under the common law.Id. at 1360 (citing Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978)).

The Supreme Court has not addressed whether jury questionnaires are subject to the same presumption of openness as is voir dire, but the Ohio Supreme Court reasoned that “[t]he fact that a lawyer elicits juror responses from written questions rather than oral questions has no bearing on whether the responses are considered in accepting or rejecting a juror.” State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publishing v. Bond, 781 N.E.2d 180, 188 (Ohio 2002). The court added that “virtually every court having occasion to address this issue has concluded that such questionnaires are part of voir dire and thus subject to a presumption of openness.” Id. at 188 & n.3 (collecting cases). Courts may – and sometimes must under local rules – redact highly personal information such as a Social Security number or telephone number that does “nothing to further the objectives underlying the presumption of openness.” Id. at 195. The Fourth Circuit has similarly recognized a right of access to jury lists. In re Baltimore Sun Co., 841 F.2d 74, 75 (4th Cir. 1988).

6th Cir.