The U.S. Supreme Court has strengthened the right to public criminal trials, ruling in a Georgia case that jury voir dire proceedings should be open to defendants and to the public, reports the National Law Journal. In a 7-2 ruling, the court said that a trial judge has a duty to seek alternatives that will preserve openness even when, for example, it appears that there are so many prospective jurors in the courtroom that there are not enough seats for the public.
“Trial courts are obligated to take every reasonable measure to accommodate public attendance at criminal trials,” the court majority stated. “The public has the right to be present whether or not any party has asserted the right.” Dissenter Clarence Thomas wrote that the ruling “belittles the efforts of our judicial colleagues” who have to interpret conflicting precedents on the issue. “The Supreme Court quickly and emphatically reiterated its long-standing precedent, and made clear you don’t get to throw the public out of a criminal trial just because your courtroom is too small or because it’s convenient,” said Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press.