OK County Bars Public From Criminal Court Proceedings


They don't disregard the entire 6th Amendment to the Constitution in Oklahoma’s Rogers County, David Starkey contends: Just the most important part. The Oklahoman reports that Starkey has documented several occasions when the public was refused entry into court proceedings, including his own. A sign on Judge Dwayne Steidley's courtroom confirms that the public isn't welcome. “ONLY DEFENDANTS are allowed in the court room,” the sign states. “Family and friends must stay in the hallway.”

Next door, during a criminal docket last week, a sheriff's deputy said the judge would have to approve any party other than attorneys before entering. “That is unbelievable,” said Joey Senat, past president of Freedom of Information Oklahoma and an associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University. Dynda Post, the county's presiding judge, said she was troubled to learn of the policy and said she didn't condone it. She said she ordered Steidley's sign removed and added, “It won't go back up.” In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court said a judge may close a courtroom only under “limited circumstances.” In Oklahoma, exceptions to that requirement include adoption, juvenile, mental health and guardianship proceedings. Senat said the Rogers County practice is “so outrageous as to be impossible to believe.”

Link: http://newsok.com/man-fights-for-right-to-open-courtrooms/article/3310224/?custom_click=pod_lead_news

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