Media and Confidentiality
When the press attends court hearings, will confidentiality mandates prevent coverage of the entire proceeding if multiple related cases are heard? Which cases are closed to the press?
- Adoption, Parental Status, Termination of Parental Rights, and Judicial Waiver of Parental Notice cases are closed proceedings. There is a strong presumption of openness for all other court proceedings, and public access includes media access. Trial courts do have the power to close all, or part of a proceeding, in limited circumstances, and to take steps necessary to protect children.
- When a family court judge presides over multiple related cases, and one or more is closed per statute, the court must consider the factors set out in Barron v. Florida Freedom Newspapers, Inc., 531 So.2d 113, (Fla. 1988) and adopted by Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.420, to determine whether to close all or part of the proceeding. Findings of fact are required for all closure orders, as well as findings regarding the consideration of alternatives to closure. It is clear that the judge may close a proceeding, and order sealing of records, to protect the interests of minor children.