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D. Post-trial proceedings

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  • 4th Circuit

    The public has a First Amendment right of access to sentencing hearings. In re Washington Post Co., 807 F.2d 383 (4th Cir. 1986).

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  • Pennsylvania

    While Pennsylvania courts have not ruled on whether there is a right of access to post-trial proceedings, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that there is a right of access to post-trial records: “Given the open nature of criminal trials, and sentencing proceedings in particular, we find that letters submitted to a sentencing court by defense counsel at the time of sentencing, which the sentencing court explicitly reviews in preparation for sentencing, are public judicial documents regardless of whether the sentencing court formally dockets the letters.” Commonwealth v. Martinez, 917 A.2d 856, 861-62 (Pa. Super. 2007); see also id. at 861 n.9 (acknowledging that the federal courts hold “that the public, and consequently the press, have a qualified First Amendment right of access to sentencing proceedings”); Commonwealth v. Dominick, 40 Pa. D. & C. 5th 347, 350-52 (Lackawanna Cty. C.C.P. Sept. 3, 2014) (citing Martinez for the proposition that letters to a sentencing court are public judicial documents even if not docketed.).

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  • Vermont

    The Vermont Supreme Court has applied the two-part test developed by the United States Supreme Court for determining whether the First Amendment right of access to criminal proceedings attaches to a particular proceeding.  State v. LaBounty, 167 Vt. 25, 29, 702 A.2d 82, 85 (Vt. 1997) (citing Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1, 8 (1986)).  Under this test, the qualified right attaches if, first, “the place and process have historically been open to the press and general public,” and second, “public access plays a significant positive role in the functioning of the particular process in question.”  LaBounty, 167 Vt. at 29, 702 A.2d at 85.  Applying this test, the Vermont Supreme Court has held that “[p]ublic access to sentencing hearings, and to documents filed in connection therewith, plays an important role in the sentencing process.”  State v. Densmore, 160 Vt. 131, 136, 624 A.2d 1138, 1141 (Vt. 1993).

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