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Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia

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Constitutional Law Keyed to Stone

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 448 U.S. 555, 100 S. Ct. 2814, 65 L. Ed. 2d 973, 1980 U.S. 18.

Brief Fact Summary. The Appellant, Richmond Newspapers (Appellant), moves to have a judicial order for closure of a criminal trial to the press and the public overturned as a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees both the public and the press a right to attend criminal trials. However, this right is not absolute and may be outweighed where the judge finds an overriding interest that cannot be accommodated by less restrictive means.


Facts. A criminal on trial, Stevenson, moved to have the proceeding closed to the public. Neither the prosecutor nor anyone else present, including two reporters, objected to the motion. The judge, acting pursuant to a state statute, authorizing the court in its discretion to exclude from the trial any persons whose presence would impair the conduct of a fair trial, ordered the courtroom be kept clear of all parties, except the witnesses when they testified. Later that day, the Appellant moved to vacate the closure order. In defense of the order, Stevenson argued that he did not want information to be leaked out, be published by the media and then be seen by jurors. The trial court denied the motion to vacate the order, stating that people in the courtroom are districting. The trial court ordered the trial to continue with the public and the press excluded.

Issue. Whether an order excluding public and press from a criminal trial violated their rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution?
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