Given that trials are presumed to be open, does the public have a First Amendment right to hear the discussions among the judge, the lawyers and the parties in sidebar conferences or in the judge’s chambers?

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Assuming that sidebar conferences and meetings in chambers are not being used to circumvent hearings that should be held in open court, the right of access does not extend to such discussions. Courts that have considered this issue have denied access on the grounds that there is no historical tradition of access to these portions of a trial. These discussions, however, almost always are recorded by the court reporter, and many courts, if asked, will release transcripts of the discussions after the trial.