In The

Supreme Court of the United States



County of Norfolk

Decided June 23, 1982

Justice O’Connor, Concurring

Topic: First Amendment*Court vote: 6–2
Note: No other Justices joined this opinion.
Citation: 457 U.S. 596 Docket: 81–611Audio: Listen to this case's oral arguments at Oyez

* As categorized by the Washington University Law Supreme Court Database

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JUSTICE O'CONNOR, concurring in the judgment.

In Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U. S. 555 (1980), the Court held that the First Amendment protects the right of press and public to attend criminal trials. I do not interpret that decision to shelter every right that is "necessary to the enjoyment of other First Amendment rights." Ante at 457 U. S. 604. Instead, Richmond Newspapers rests upon our long history of open criminal trials and the special value, for both public and accused, of that openness. As the plurality opinion in Richmond Newspapers stresses,

it would be difficult to single out any aspect of government of higher concern and importance to the people than the manner in which criminal trials are conducted.

448 U.S. at 448 U. S. 575. Thus, I interpret neither Richmond Newspapers nor the Court's decision today to carry any implications outside the context of criminal trials.

This case, however, does involve a criminal trial. Moreover, it involves a statute mandating automatic exclusion of the public from certain testimony. As the Court explains, Massachusetts has demonstrated no interest weighty enough to justify application of its automatic bar to all cases, even those in which the victim, defendant, and prosecutor have no objection to an open trial. Accordingly, I concur in the judgment.

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