Friday, May 13, 2011
Corona Courthouse Is Open to the Public, Executive Assures
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Riverside Superior Court’s branch courthouse in Corona is open to members of the public to view proceedings, notwithstanding a posted sign suggesting otherwise, the court’s executive officer assured yesterday.
“I guarantee it’s going to be ripped down by the first thing tomorrow morning,” Sherri Carter told the MetNews.
Carter said she had no previous knowledge of the sign, which was apparently posted in recent days, and which reads:
“Please be advised that this court facility is closed to the general public. The facility conducts criminal trials Monday through Friday and only jurors, witnesses, and associated trial personnel are permitted to enter. On Fridays, the facility is also open for litigants reporting for court trial on Traffic or Minor Offense Matters.”
Carter surmised that the sign was posted by “some overzealous employee” who may have been confused about the court’s effort to inform the public that the small facility is not open for public services such as paying fines or delaying jury services.
It was unclear whether any member of the public was actually turned away from watching a criminal trial. But if they were, Carter said, it was “flat out wrong.”
The executive officer explained that for budgetary reasons, the Corona courthouse—which was closed completely for a time in the past decade—cannot offer services that are found at other courthouses. This means that residents of that area must go elsewhere or use the court’s online or telephone options, Carter said.
But “any member of the public is welcome to witness any trial,” she said.
Ironically, two of the primary U.S. Supreme Court cases on public access to criminal proceedings, Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court (1984) 464 U.S. 501 and Press- Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court (II) 478 U.S. 1 originated in the Riverside Superior Court.
Those cases hold that proceedings may only be closed on an individualized basis, and only if there are findings that closure is necessary to protect the defendant’s right to fair trial or other significant interests, such as juror privacy, and that closure is appropriate only if there are no alternative means of protecting those interests.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company