By: Staff Reports
Charlotte Observer’s Appeal Rejected
The Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear arguments from The Charlotte (N.C.)
Observer in an appeal that states the public and news media have a constitutional
right to attend civil trials despite trial participants’ request to exclude them,
The Associated Press reported.
Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the public and news media have a
First Amendment right to access criminal trials. In a 1980 ruling, Richmond
Newspapers v. Virginia, the court ruled that judges may conduct in secret civil
trials to insure fairness. Judges must explain why the trial, or portions of it,
must exclude the public.
Knight Publishing Co., The Observer’s owner, filed a request for access after John
Hechinger, an Observer reporter, was removed from the courtroom in a 1996 case
involving a doctor’s lawsuit against the operator of two Charlotte hospitals. The
newspaper’s request for access to documents filed during the case’s secret hearings
has been in appeals.
The appeal has been supported by a friend-of-the-court brief submitted by the
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Society of Newspaper
Editors, and the Society of Professional Journalists.
(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher