Are arraignments open to the public everywhere in America?
October 29, 2022 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Are arraignments open to the public basically everywhere in America? I can show up to the courthouse in NYC, walk in, sit in a courtroom, and watch arraignments. Can people do that everywhere?
posted by andoatnp to Law & Government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
With pretty rare exceptions, adult criminal court proceedings are open to the public. Lots of courts ask people to present ID to get in the building, and ask if you have no business before the court. But public trials are a (general) requirement under the sixth amendment, and that generally applies to initial appearances and arraignments too.
posted by skewed at 12:09 PM on October 29, 2022

In those locations where there is security and a requirement to show ID, if you say that you are there to observe court proceedings, the policy is that they let you in. To the best of my knowledge, that is universal.
posted by yclipse at 2:27 PM on October 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

You might have trouble getting into juvenile proceedings or those where competency is at issue, but in general, open courtrooms are constitutionally required. There are some closed courtrooms, especially where there is a risk of irreparable harm (e.g., to children in a high-profile divorce trial).
posted by saltykitten at 8:13 PM on October 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Courts take the right to public trials very seriously, enough that I’ve seen more than one criminal trial reversed on the grounds that the judge improperly closed the courtroom for only part of the trial.
posted by holborne at 10:32 PM on October 29, 2022

+1 to the idea that most everything is public in courthouses in the U.S., but there are sometimes overzealous security guards/marshals at door who may ask you why you are there in an aggressive and off-putting way. In general just saying you are there to observe a proceeding should be fine, though if you can say you are there to observe something specific in a specific courtroom, that would probably work even better. These types of guards/marshals annoy me, but I encounter this type of thing in many courthouses.
posted by Mid at 2:34 PM on October 30, 2022

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