A. In general
“[P]retrial civil proceedings are generally open to the public.” 360 Mortg. Grp., LLC v. Stonegate Mortg. Corp., No. 5:14-cv-00310-F, 2016 WL 3030166, *6 (E.D. N.C. May 25, 2016) (citing Va. Dep't of State Police v. Wash. Post, 386 F.3d 567, 580 (4th Cir. 2004)).
In the civil context, much of the case law concerns access to judicial records, not proceedings. However, one district court in the Fourth Circuit has observed that the distinction is immaterial. See Minter v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 258 F.R.D. 118, 121 (D. Md. 2009) (“Courts have interpreted Richmond Newspapers broadly, and make little distinction between the right of access to court proceedings and the right of access to court records. These courts understand Richmond Newspapers to recognize the public’s general right to receive information within a court’s control.”) (internal quotations omitted).
The Idaho Supreme Court has not directly addressed the issue of whether there is a constitutional right of access to civil proceedings. But, the language of Article 1, section 18 of the Idaho Constitution (“Courts of justice shall be open to every person, and a speedy remedy afforded for every injury of person, property or character, and right and justice shall be administered without sale, denial, delay, or prejudice”) appears broad enough to encompass both civil and criminal proceedings. Likewise, the U.S. Supreme Court has not directly addressed whether the public has a constitutional right of access to civil cases, although a plurality of the Court found that “historically both civil and criminal trials have been presumptively open.” Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 580 n.17 (1980) (plurality opinion). Given history and experience, it is fair to assume that most civil proceedings will be open to the public.
In general, Pennsylvania courts have recognized both a constitutional and common law right of access to civil proceedings. Hutchison v. Luddy, 581 A.2d 578, 582 (Pa. Super. 1990), aff’d in relevant part, rev’d in part, 594 A.2d 307 (Pa. 1991). This right, however, is not absolute. Id. Under the First Amendment and the Pennsylvania Constitution, closure of a civil proceeding is permitted only when there is “a showing that the denial serves an important governmental interest and there is no less restrictive way to serve that governmental interest.” Id. (quoting Publicker Indus., Inc. v. Cohen, 733 F.2d 1059, 1070 (3d Cir. 1984)); accord PA Childcare LLC v. Flood, 887 A.2d 309, 312 (Pa. Super. 2005) (“only a compelling government interest justifies closure and then only by a means narrowly tailored to serve that interest” (citation omitted)).
Under the common law, a party seeking closure must show that “the interest in secrecy outweighs the presumption” of access. Id.(quoting Bank of America Nat’l Tr. & Sav. Ass’n v. Hotel Rittenhouse Assocs., 800 F.2d 339, 344 (3d Cir. 1986)). In deciding whether to grant a motion for closure, a court must balance the interests in favor of access against those interests in opposition to access. Id.; accord PA Childcare LLC, 887 A.2d at 313.