Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., Riverside Cty.

PETITIONER: Press-Enterprise Co.
RESPONDENT: Superior Court of Cal., Riverside Cty.
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma

DOCKET NO.: 82-556
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 464 US 501 (1984)
ARGUED: Oct 12, 1983
DECIDED: Jan 18, 1984

Glenn Robert Salter - on behalf of the Respondent
James D. Ward - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., Riverside Cty.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 12, 1983 in Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., Riverside Cty.

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Press-Enterprise Company against Superior Court of California, Riverside County.

Mr. Ward, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

James D. Ward:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this is a closure case involving specifically the issue of closure of the voir dire proceedings in a capital case.

The questions presented here confront the Court with the rules involving access to the courtroom by the public and the press.

Warren E. Burger:

I want to be sure not to misunderstand you.

You said in a capital case.

Your presentation, your submission is not limited to capital cases, or is it?

James D. Ward:

The case below was limited--

Warren E. Burger:


James D. Ward:

--to a capital case, and the--

Warren E. Burger:


James D. Ward:

--the trial court was... and the courts below have been utilizing the authority of a case which dealt with the interrogation of the jury in a capital case.

The problem has only arisen thus far in capital cases.

Obviously, we would be happy with the pronouncement that affected the voir dire in all sorts of criminal cases, Mr. Chief Justice.

We are in fact asking the Court to clarify that the right of access to establish that that right of access applies to the jury selection process generally.

We are asking this Court to pronounce that the California Supreme Court case of Hovey versus Superior Court should be construed and applied consistent with the right of access.

William H. Rehnquist:

--Well, we can't actually do that for you, can we, Mr. Ward?

We can't announce how the decision of the Supreme Court of California should be construed.

The Supreme Court of California is the final authority on that.

James D. Ward:

Justice Rehnquist, the Supreme Court of the state of California pronounced a rule in this case as to the method of selecting jurors in capital cases which has been, in our opinion, misinterpreted by the trial courts of our state in a way that has impacted upon our constitutional rights.

It would be our position that this Court could most assuredly pronounce that the case should not be interpreted to impact upon our First Amendment rights.

William H. Rehnquist:

We could certainly say that if it were so construed, it would have an impact on your rights, I suppose.

James D. Ward:

I believe we are saying the same thing, Justice Rehnquist, in a different... at least I am attempting to do so.

The defendant in the case below was found guilty and sentenced to death in connection with a rape and murder.

During the trial, the court closed the proceedings during six weeks of voir dire proceedings.

The transcript of the six weeks of voir dire was sealed by the court.

Three times the petitioner attempted to seek access to the proceedings.

On the first occasion, in October of 1981, prior to the commencement of the jury selection process, petitioner made an oral and written motion to allow the public access to the voir dire proceedings.

We did so because we had faced this issue before in other departments of the same court.

The courts in our county and indeed in the state of California had been closing the courtroom during the voir dire as a result of the case of Hovey versus Superior Court handed down by the California Supreme Court.