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Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court [Press-Enterprise II]

United States Supreme Court
478 U.S. 1 (1986)


Press-Enterprise Company (Press) (plaintiff) joined a state petition in the Superior Court of California for the County of Riverside (superior court) (defendant) to release the transcript of a closed preliminary hearing in a murder case. The defendant in that case, Robert Diaz, was a nurse accused of murdering 12 patients by giving them massive overdoses of heart medication. Diaz moved to exclude the public from his preliminary hearing pursuant to California Penal Code § 868, which permitted closed hearings if necessary to protect the defendant’s right to a fair and impartial trial. The magistrate judge granted the unopposed motion due to the national publicity the case had received. The preliminary hearing began on July 6, 1982 and lasted 41 days. All charges were held for court. At the conclusion of the hearing, Press requested release of the transcript, which the magistrate judge denied. The superior court also denied the request, ruling that release of the transcript might prejudice Diaz’s right to a fair and impartial trial. Press appealed to the Supreme Court of California, which denied the request, holding that there is no First Amendment right of access to preliminary hearings. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)

Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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