News media, but not public, barred from Calif. courtroom

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A California judge on June 28 barred news media from a court hearing while letting members of the public attend, a move First Amendment advocates called unconstitutional, the Visalia Times-Delta reports.

The court proceeding — a sentencing hearing — was part of an educational program for school children.

Peter Sheer, the executive director of the California-based First Amendment Coalition, told the Times-Delta the judge’s order violated the First Amendment.

“He has to allow the press in to the courtroom,” Sheer told the newspaper. “He simply can’t bar the press. He doesn’t have that power.”

Court officials say the judge’s action may just be the result of a miscommunication.