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High court won't review "special interest" deportation case closures

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High court won’t review “special interest” deportation case closures

  • The Court without comment rejected review of a case in which the Third Circuit held that such cases could be categorically closed, without a need to justify closure in each instance.

May 27, 2003 — The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a case holding that the public does not have a right of access to “special interest” deportation hearings. No vote or reasoning was announced with the decision denying review.

The North Jersey Media Group Inc. and the New Jersey Law Journal had sought to have the high court overturn the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia (3rd Cir.) which had supported an INS directive mandating complete closure of the proceedings. The Third Circuit had held that the beneficial purpose served by public access was outweighed by the negative effect that access would allegedly have.

The Third Circuit decision directly conflicts with a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati (6th Cir.), which allowed access to “special interest” cases unless closure in a specific case is “necessitated by a compelling governmental interest, and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.”

The split between the two federal circuits led many legal experts to conclude that the Court would almost have to review the cases. While the court rejects the vast majority of petitions for review filed before it, a circuit split is one of the most compelling arguments to convince the Court to review a case.

The federal government had urged the Court not to review the case, arguing that the issue was moot because most of the hearings had already occurred and asserting that the public had no right of access anyway. “There is no First Amendment right of public access to executive branch proceedings in general or to removal proceedings involving special interest aliens in particular,” Solicitor General Theodore Olson had argued to the court in a brief.

(North Jersey Media Group v. Ashcroft)

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