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Morgan v. Dickerson

Post categories

  1. First Amendment

Court: Arizona Supreme Court

Date Filed: March 15, 2022

Background: A pair of Arizona journalists sought to unseal the names of jurors and prospective jurors in two different state court criminal cases. The judges in both cases said no.

In July 2021, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed those decisions. The Court of Appeals interpreted Arizona law as requiring that jurors names be presumed confidential and that, therefore, withholding them doesn’t raise a First Amendment question. The court also stated that, even if it were to consider the First Amendment question, it would conclude that the presumptive public right of access to criminal proceedings and records under the First Amendment does not extend to the names of jurors or prospective jurors.

In February 2022, the Arizona Supreme Court agreed to review the case.

Our Position: The Arizona Supreme Court should reverse the Court of Appeals and hold that the First Amendment gives the public a presumptive right of access to the names of jurors and prospective jurors during the jury selection process.

  • The Court of Appeals erred in holding that withholding the names of jurors does not raise a First Amendment question.
  • The Court of Appeals erred in concluding that juror names fall outside of the presumptive First Amendment right of access to criminal proceedings and related records.
  • Experience and logic support a presumptive First Amendment right of access to juror names during jury selection.

Attorneys Roopali H. Desai and Andrew T. Fox of Coppersmith Brockelman PLC represented the Reporters Committee in this friend-of-the-court brief.

Quote: “[T]he benefits of an open and transparent court system — guarding against the miscarriage of justice, assuring that proceedings are fair and discouraging decisions based on bias — are undermined when the public cannot tell who exercises the jury power. Withholding juror names denies the press and the public access to critical information, limiting the public’s  ability to scrutinize the judicial process.”