A Closed Courtroom by Any Other Name

This is a rather bizarre situation. A judge banned the public from his courtroom, not just once, but twice. Both times was during jury selection in two separate trials.

Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Richard Nuss said he didn’t want anyone but prospective jurors in his courtroom during voir dire got two different trials. Later, after the defendants’ lawyers claimed their clients’ constitutional rights had been violated because their juries had been selected in proceedings that were closed to the public, Nuss said, too bad, so sad. If they wanted to object, they missed their chance. Doing so after the fact was too late.

Later, Nuss, claimed he hadn’t really closed his courtroom because it wasn’t neither secured nor locked. Also, he probably had his fingers crossed.

An appellate court punted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court by saying the question was “unsettled law”.

Strange. I thought it was. Back in 1984 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Riverside Press-Enterprise — a newspaper I worked for at the time — when it sued the California Superior Court over the right for the public to attend jury selection in criminal trials.

So, no matter what the Wisconsin Five decides, these two cases (consolidated in to one, for the purpose of settling this question) will most likely, like Press-Enterprise I (the P-E prevailed in another open courtroom case two years later over public access to preliminary hearings) will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

But one aspect that makes this situation so bizarre is that the name of one of the defense attorneys is Amelia Bizarro. No joke.


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