Many Georgia Courts Close Doors to Public Despite High Court Ruling


Judges across Georgia are closing courtrooms to the general public, citing as reasons a lack of space and security concerns, says The Daily Report. They are doing so even though the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 vacated a Georgia Supreme Court ruling that had upheld the closure of a DeKalb County courtroom and the removal of members of the public during jury voir dire. The U.S. justices said courtrooms should remain open to the public except in rare circumstances.

Since then, courtroom closures have been challenged in four counties. Two weeks ago, the Southern Center for Human Rights sued the Cordele Judicial Circuit, saying its judges are continuing to bar public access to court hearings despite a consent agreement in 2004 that they would stop the practice. Judicial Qualifications Commission director Jeffrey Davis said he often is met at the courtroom doors by local deputies who ask for his credentials and question why he is there. Once a member of the public has passed through courthouse metal detectors or security at a courthouse entrance, Davis said, “No citizens should be questioned about the reason they are in a public courtroom.” Several DeKalb judges posted signs on their courtroom doors limiting courtroom access to criminal defendants, their lawyers and alleged victims. One sign said, “We do not have space for extra people.”

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