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D. Post-trial proceedings

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  • 2nd Circuit

    The Second Circuit has not addressed this matter specifically, however, at least one other Circuit Court has found that such a right exists.  See, Newman v. Graddick, 696 F.2d 796, 801 (11th Cir. 1983) (recognizing a constitutional right of access to post-trial proceedings in a civil case dealing with prisoners’ rights).

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  • 5th Circuit

    Nothing found specific to the Fifth Circuit.

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  • 7th Circuit

    In B.H. v. Ryder, 856 F. Supp. 1285 (N.D. Ill. 1994), aff’d sub. nom. B.H. v. McDonald, 49 F.3d 294 (7th Cir. 1995), a class action by children in DCFS custody claiming violation of their constitutional and statutory rights was settled pursuant to a complex consent decree that called for systemic reforms in the DCFS; the parties and district judge agreed to hold in-chambers hearings in addition to open court status hearings, because of the “difficulties of candidly discussing DCFS compliance in open court with the media hanging on every word. . . . The court found that the parties’ reluctance to make the necessary concessions stemmed from concern about bad press reports.”  49 F.3d at 295-96.  When this practice was challenged by intervenors, the district judge concluded that there was no First Amendment right of access to the in-chambers conferences. The Seventh Circuit affirmed: “Because post-consent decree conferences have not historically been public, and because public access would only hinder the judicial process, we conclude that the public has no right of access under Press-Enterprise.”  Id. at 301.

    The Court observed that Fed. R. Civ. P. 77(b) gives district judges discretion to conduct proceedings in chambers, as long as trial on the merits is held in open court; this “simply articulates the traditional authority of a judge to speak privately with the parties to a suit,” which is “explicitly confirmed” in the Supreme Court’s access decisions. Id. at 298 (citing Richmond Newsp., Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 598 n. 23 (1980); Globe Newsp. Co. v. Superior Court, 457 U.S. 596, 609 n. 25 (1982)). Further, “any proceedings on the merits of this case will continue to be held in open court,” and “the public will have access to records of the in-chambers conferences. . . .  Thus, because nothing suggests that decisions on the merits will be shielded from public view, we agree that the district judge has discretion under Rule 77(b) to hold in-chambers conferences to discuss the implementation of the consent decree.”  Id. at 299.

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  • Alabama

    Although Alabama courts have not specifically addressed whether post-trial proceedings are open, the Supreme Court of Alabama’s decision in Balogun (indicating that judicial “proceedings” are open) should extend to post-trial proceedings.

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  • Arizona

    No published decisions.

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  • Arkansas

    The common-law right of access applies to civil proceedings. IDT Corp. v. eBay, 709 F.3d 1220, 1222 (8th Cir. 2013).

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  • Georgia

    The press and public’s right of access to post-trial proceedings in Georgia criminal cases is long established, see, e.g., R.W. Page Corp. v. Lumpkin, 249 Ga. 576 (1982), and the Georgia Supreme Court has reiterated that open judicial proceedings in civil cases are an integral part of our democratic form of government. “Public access protects litigants both present and future . . . . Our system abhors star chamber proceedings with good reason. Like a candle, court records hidden under a bushel make scant contribution to their purpose.” Atlanta Journal v. Long, 258 Ga. 410, 411 (1988). See generally Munoz v. American Lawyer Media LP, 236 Ga. App. 462, 464 (1999) (“The function of a free press is just as important in civil cases as in criminal cases”).

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  • Idaho

    To the extent there are any post-trial proceedings in civil matters—such as hearings on motions for reconsideration or motions for a new trial—they should remain open subject to the same procedural and substantive requirements of Press-Enterprise.

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  • Kansas

    Nothing in Kansas case law or procedural rules indicates that post-trial proceedings in a civil case are not subject to a presumption of openness, which was established in the context of a criminal case in Kansas City Star Co. v. Fossey, 630 P.2d 1176 (1981).

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  • Nevada

    Following the close of evidence in a bench trial, if the court does not prepare a memorandum of decision setting forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law, the court must orally state its findings of fact and conclusions of law, which must be recorded in open court under Rule 52 of the Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure.

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  • New Mexico

    Rule 1-104 NMRA mandates that all courtroom proceedings be open to the public, unless the courtroom is closed automatically for: (1) adoption hearings as set forth in NMSA 1978, Section 32A-58(C); (2) proceedings to detain a person with a threatening communicable disease as set forth in NMSA 1978, Section 24-1-15(J); proceedings for testing as set forth in NMSA 1978, Section 24-2B-5.1(B); and pretrial proceedings under the New Mexico Uniform Parentage Act, as set forth in NMSA 1978, Section 40-11A-625. An agreement of the parties to close the courtroom will not suffice to overcome the presumption of openness. Rule 1-104. Rather, the motion for courtroom closure must advance an interest that overrides the public’s interest in attending the proceeding. Id.

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  • Pennsylvania

    While courts in Pennsylvania have not addressed the right of access to post-trial proceedings in civil cases, in the criminal context, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has held that there is a right of access to post-trial records. Commonwealth v. Martinez, 917 A.2d 856, 861 (Pa. Super. 2007). That right also attaches to post-trial proceedings in civil cases.

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