Friday, October 24, 2014 10:44:59 PM

Court Access

Do the media have a right of access to the courts of North Carolina?

The North Carolina Constitution provides explicitly that “The courts of North Carolina shall be open” and that “No person shall be convicted of any crime but by the unanimous verdict of a jury in open court.” This right was underscored in the opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals in Virmani v. Presbyterian Hospital. In Virmani, the Court accepted a long line of cases recognizing the right of the people to have access to judicial proceedings and judicial records. The court, therefore, overturned the five trial court orders shutting down access to judicial proceedings and records.

Do the media have a right of access to take photographs or videotape in the courts of North Carolina?

Rule 15 of the North Carolina General Rules of Practice provide that electronic media and still photography coverage of public judicial proceedings shall be allowed subject to the discretion of the judge and subject to certain specific limitations.

Coverage of the following proceedings is expressly prohibited: adoption proceedings, juvenile proceedings, proceedings held before magistrates, probable cause proceedings, child custody proceedings, divorce proceedings, temporary and permanent alimony proceedings, proceedings for the hearing of motions to suppress evidence, proceedings involving trade secrets and in camera proceedings.

Coverage of the following witnesses is expressly prohibited: police informants, minors, undercover agents, relocated witnesses, and victims and families of victims of sex crimes. Coverage of jurors is prohibited.