Division III - Asking People to be Polite Not a Courtroom Closure
Stark (no, not Tony Stark…but you can picture that if it helps) shot her husband dead dead dead. The main issue here was whether the judge improperly closed the courtroom, in violation of Public Meetings requirements. Are you ready for the damning alleged closure?
I ask all the spectators, I don't really want people corning or going during closings, so if you don't think you can last the morning, you might want to rethink being in here, unless you really need to. It's just very disruptive.
Suffice it to say, the Court of Appeals did not agree this was an improper closure of a public trial:
Here, like in Lormor, our focus is whether the plain language of the trial court's request "completely and purposefully closed [the courtroom] to spectators so that no one may enter and no one may leave." Lormor, 172 Wn.2d at 93. Contrary to Ms. Stark's arguments, the court's choice of language suggests the court did not "completely" or "purposefully" close the proceedings. Lormor, 172 Wn.2d at 93. First, the court did not tell spectators they could not come and go. The court "ask[ed] all spectators" not to come and go during the closings. RP at 891. Generally, we reason a request to minimize disruptive behavior is not a closure. Second, even assuming the court's request indicated an intent to close the court, it would not be a complete closure. The court directed its request solely to those who "don't think [they] can last the morning." RP at 891. Third, and most important, the court expressly permitted spectators to come and go if they "really needed to." RP at 891.
Considering all, we reason the court did not intend to close the court. Instead, we conclude the court's purpose was, as it explained, limiting disruption. Accordingly, we hold the trial court did not violate Ms. Stark's public trial rights and, therefore, did not err when admonishing the spectators to limit disruptive behavior.
Turns out asking people to be polite is just that.