On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would close to the public until further notice. Other federal and state courts around the country are also implementing or considering measures to limit public access to courthouses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Courts, like other public institutions, should take proactive steps to reduce the spread of the virus, and the Reporters Committee understands the urgent need for such measures.
Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, made the following statement:
“We strongly urge the Supreme Court and other courts throughout the country, as they implement these measures, to take similarly proactive steps to safeguard the public’s right of access to court records and proceedings while these measures are in effect, including by livestreaming upcoming hearings and oral arguments, as many federal courts already do.
“The public has a First Amendment right to know what’s happening in its courts. When the public is shut out, it erodes public trust in the judicial system. In times of crisis, public access to accurate information about all three branches of government is absolutely essential. The public must not be left in the dark when it comes to the work of courts, particularly the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices frequently consider cases that affect the lives of all Americans.”
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.