National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

Hawaii news media seek court ruling on open trials

From Honolulu Civil Beat: News organizations throughout the state are asking the Hawaii Supreme Court to make it clear that a judge can’t close a criminal trial or hear arguments in secret unless the press and public are first given a chance to object.

Hawaii is the only state that has not expressly asserted the First Amendment right to attend criminal judicial proceedings, according to a “friend of the court” brief expected to be filed Monday in a case that seeks the release of transcripts from closed sessions of the recent murder trial of U.S. State Department special agent Christopher Deedy.


On Monday, 11 other news organizations and journalism groups filed an additional brief supporting the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now. But they also want the state’s highest court to reverse a 35-year-old ruling that the press did not have a First Amendment right to attend court hearings. The amicus brief was filed by the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest on behalf of Civil Beat, KITV/Hearst Television, KHON, Hawaii Public Radio, Hawaii Reporter, Hawaii Tribune-Herald, West Hawaii Today, Maui Time Weekly, the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Media Council Hawaii and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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The Media Council Hawaii is a member of NFOIC. –eds