The first amendment freedoms of speech and press, and the sixth amendment right to a fair trial are considered to occupy a special place in the constitutional hierarchy. When these rights collide, rarely is the resulting fair trial–free press conflict easily resolved. In Gannett Co. v. DePasquale, the Supreme Court added one more facet to the conflict by holding that the sixth amendment right to a public trial was personal to the accused, and that the public trial right did not confer upon the public a right of access to pretrial suppression hearings. The Court's ambiguous opinion was viewed by some lower courts as allowing the closure of criminal trials, as well as pretrial suppression hearings. In order to "wash away at least some of the graffiti that marred" Gannett, the Court agreed to hear Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia and held that trials are presumptively open to the public. In reaching its decision, the Court recognized a first amendment public right of access to governmental institutions and information. This Note will analyze Richmond, focusing on its precedential bases, its qualification of Gannett, and on the source and scope of the newly recognized public right to access.
Robert F. Copple,
Public Trials and a First Amendment Right of Access: A Presumption of Openness: Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 100 S. Ct. 2814 (1980),
60 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol60/iss1/8