YOUR RIGHT TO HAVE A PUBLIC CIVIL TRIAL
"Popular attendance at trials, in sum, substantially furthers the particular public purposes of that critical judicial proceeding. In that sense, public access is an indispensable element of the trial process itself. Trial access, therefore, assumes structural importance in our 'government of laws.'
trials have historically been public."[H]istorically both civil and criminal trials have been presumptively open." Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 580 n.17 (1980). "As early as 1685, Sir John Hawles commented that open proceedings were necessary so "that truth may be discovered in civil as well as criminal matters. . . . The experience in the American Colonies was analogous. From the beginning, the norm was open trials." Gannett Co., Inc. v. DePasquale, 443 U.S. 368, 386-87 n. 15 (1979) (emphasis added). A celebrated dictum in a number of high court cases declares broadly that "[a] trial is a public event" and that "[w]hat transpires in the court room is public property." Craig v. Harney 331 U.S. 367, 374 (1947); In re Oliver, 333 U.S. 257, 266, 272 (1948). Today many courts recognize testimony in civil proceedings cannot be provided in private places but rather should be in open court with public access. Publicker Indus., Inc. v. Cohen, 733 F.2d 1059, 1061 (3rd Cir. 1984) ("the First Amendment does secure a right of access to civil proceedings"); Westmoreland v. CBS, 752 F.2d 16, 23 (2nd Cir. 1984) ("we agree with the Third Circuit in Publicker Industries ... that the First Amendment does secure to the public and to the press a right of access to civil proceedings in accordance with the dicta of the Justices in Richmond Newspapers."
Public trials enhance accuracyOpen trials enhance the performance and accuracy of trial proceedings, educate the public, and serve a "therapeutic" value to the community. Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. at 569-573. Critically, "there is no principled basis upon which a public right of access to judicial proceedings can be limited to criminal cases." Gannett Co., Inc. v. DePasquale, id. Likewise, the public right to access is the same in a family law case as in an ordinary civil case. In re Marriage of Burkle, 135 Cal.App.4th 1045 (2006) (The same First Amendment right of access applicable in "ordinary civil cases" applies in divorce proceedings.).