Closed courtrooms

Reporters Committee and media coalition move to unseal prosecutions of Colombian paramilitary leaders

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Secret Courts | News | April 7, 2015
April 7, 2015

A coalition of media organizations and journalists led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has filed petitions to unseal secretive criminal prosecutions of four Colombian paramilitary leaders who were extradited to the United States in 2008. CBS Broadcasting Inc., Sergio Gomez, a U.S.-based reporter for El Tiempo, Daniel Pacheco, a U.S. based reporter for Caracol and El Espectador, and Univision have joined the Reporters Committee in this effort.

United States v. Mohammed Hamzah Khan

October 24, 2014

A 19-year-old American, Mohammed Hamzah Khan, was arrested as he tried to fly from the United States to Turkey (ultimately to go to Iraq or Syria), and he was charged with attempting to provide material support to terrorist organizations. The government moved to have Khan's detention hearing closed to the public, because privacy interests of third-party minors would be implicated. The government filed its motion and brief under seal, so the precise justification to close the hearing was unknown. The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to express concern about closing the detention hearing, arguing that there is a well-established First Amendment right of access to preliminary proceedings in criminal cases, which may only be overcome by an overriding interest based on findings that closure was essential to preserve higher values and was narrowly tailored to serve that interest.

Colorado court refuses to close jury selection process in Holmes theater-shooting case

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Secret Courts | News | June 13, 2014
June 13, 2014

A Colorado district court judge on Wednesday rejected the defendant’s request to close the jury selection process for the Aurora theater shooting trial.

Arapahoe County Judge Carlos Samour denied the request for complete closure to the public and the media and the prosecution’s request for partial closure of the selection process. Instead, the court opted to open the entire process, only withholding the names of prospective and seated jurors and the jury questionnaires.

Florida Supreme Court rules to close out public, media in redistricting case hearings

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Secret Courts | News | May 28, 2014
May 28, 2014

The Florida Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday to allow third-party records and email to be admitted as evidence in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a congressional redistricting plan, but also held that the materials must be under seal and the courtroom closed when attorneys discuss the materials.

This ruling overturns an appellate court's decision not to let in the records of political consultant Pat Bainter and his consulting firm, Data Targeting, Inc., which Bainter argued contained trade secrets. The League of Women Voters, Common Cause and other democratic voters had wanted to use the documents as evidence in their challenge to the redistricting plan, which they say was created in an illegal manner and unfairly favors Republicans.

Colorado v. Holmes

October 2, 2013

The Reporters Committee and two media organizations wrote a letter opposing a defense motion in the murder trial of James Holmes, the suspect in the Aurora, Colo. theater shootings. The letter supports the opposition brief filed by a coalition of news organizations covering the trial. The defense motion asks the court to (1) suppress all transcripts of the proceedings; (2) suppress the register of actions; and (3) remove access to most pleadings from its website.

Johnson v. New York; Moss v. New York

September 3, 2013

The Reporters Committee joined by 26 other news organizations asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a case challenging the routine closure of courtrooms in New York when undercover officers testify in "buy-and-bust" cases, arguing that such closure should only be allowed after examination of particular circumstances that justify the loss of public access to such testimony.

Public interest outweighs confidentiality in Ky. juvenile sexual assault case

Kristen Rasmussen | Secret Courts | News | August 31, 2012
August 31, 2012

A Kentucky judge earlier this week granted a local newspaper’s request to unseal records in a juvenile sexual abuse case that sparked widespread support for the victim after she publicly identified her alleged attackers.

Jefferson District Court Chief Judge Angela McCormick Bisig also ruled that all proceedings held in the case will be open to the public and allowed the news media to photograph in the courtroom.

Reporters Committee lauds federal court's ruling that secret Del. court arbitration is unconstitutional

Press Release | August 30, 2012
August 30, 2012
Reporters Committee lauds federal court's ruling that secret Del. court arbitration is unconstitutional

A federal judge in Delaware stood up for the right to be informed about important disputes that may affect public health and safety Thursday when she declared unconstitutional state court rules that allow blanket confidentiality in private arbitration proceedings and records.

Reporters Committee to host free webinars on covering protests and courts

Press Release | May 1, 2012
May 1, 2012
Reporters Committee to host free webinars on covering protests and courts

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is hosting two free webinars in May and June to help journalists understand their rights to attend, report on and photograph protests and court proceedings.

Minor accused of murder will have closed court proceedings

Rachel Bunn | Privacy | Feature | February 28, 2012
February 28, 2012

A court proceeding to determine whether an 11-year-old Pennsylvania boy killed his father’s pregnant fiancée and her unborn son will remain closed to the public, a state appellate court ruled last week.

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a juvenile court order that the delinquency proceeding of Jordan Brown, now 13, should remain closed because the government's interest in protecting the privacy of juveniles outweighs the public's right of access to the proceeding.