During a prosecution for attempted murder, the trial judge determined that detailed reporting of the pretrial suppression hearing would jeopardize the defendant's right to a fair trial. Judge Swedberg therefore conditioned the media's attendance on their agreement to abide by the 1974 Washington State Bench-Bar-Press Guidelines. Federated Publications, publisher of the Bellingham Herald, refused to sign the agreement and refused to allow its reporters to attend solely in a nonprofessional capacity. It argued that conditioning media attendance on compliance with the Bench-Bar-Press Guidelines constituted a prior restraint and that the trial judge exceeded his power by excluding nonsigning media representatives. The Washington Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the order was a permissible access restriction. This Note first examines the legal background of the doctrine of prior restraint, access to the courtroom, and the development of the Bench-Bar-Press Guidelines. It argues that the Washington Supreme Court erroneously characterized the trial court's order as an access restriction instead of a prior restraint. Finally, this Note proposes an alternative approach for situations where the trial court faces a substantial likelihood of prejudicial publicity. This alternative approach suggests that procedural safeguards should be exhausted before the trial court imposes any access restrictions.
Lynne A. Chafetz,
Fair Trial and Free Press—Washington Conditions Media Access to the Courtoom—Federated Publications, Inc. v. Swedberg, 96 Wn. 2d 13, 633 P.2d 74 (1981), cert. denied, 102 S. Ct. 2257 (1982),
57 Wash. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol57/iss4/8