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Press excluded from testimony in judge's prosecution

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  1. Court Access
A Washington state judge overseeing a criminal case against another judge excluded the press from the courtroom during deposition testimony…

A Washington state judge overseeing a criminal case against another judge excluded the press from the courtroom during deposition testimony Monday, The News Tribune in Tacoma reported.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Michael Hecht faces charges of harassment and soliciting a prostitute. Concerned that a key witness would fail to appear to testify in person, King County Judge James Cayce ordered him to appear in court for a videotaped deposition in advance of trial. But Cayce “closed a courtroom to the public Monday after a News Tribune reporter and the newspaper’s lawyer showed up to observe” the testimony, the newspaper reported.

Cayce reasoned that, though the deposition was taken in a courtroom with a judge present and making rulings, it should be treated like a private deposition taken in a lawyer’s office rather than a court hearing.

The News Tribune disagreed. "The presumption in Washington is that such a hearing is open unless it is closed for very good reasons – and with a specific established process,” it said in an editorial. It added that it would ask the state supreme court “to reverse Cayce’s high-handed ejection of” the newspaper’s reporter and lawyer.