Brief Fact Summary. A television station was denied access to a county jail where an inmate committed suicide.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The press has no greater constitutional right to access penal facilities than any member of the general public.
It is bad because, in the light of its history and of its present setting, it is seen to be a deliberate and calculated device in the guise of a tax to limit the circulation of information to which the public is entitled in virtue of the constitutional guaranties.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Does the press have a constitutional right of access to a county jail that is greater than a private individual?
Held. No. The United States Constitution does not confer a greater right of access to information on the press. The media is equivalent to any member of the general public.
Dissent. The existence of the constitutional violation should not have been decided as a right to access question because both the public and the press were denied equally. The jail purposefully denied access to all to eliminate all first hand reports of conditions in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Concurrence. The concurrence agrees with the judgment, but stated that Respondent was entitled to injunctive relief. As the substitute for the majority of the public, the press needs to use cameras and sound equipment to accurately describe the jail conditions.
Discussion. Although the press serves as the “eyes and ears of the public” it does not enjoy unlimited access to information. Limiting access does not infringe upon the freedom of the press to communicate or publish. They have alternative sources of determining the conditions of the penal facilities in the state. Furthermore, the amount of public access to jails is a policy issue that should be decided by the legislature and not the c