In both criminal and civil proceedings, judges typically allow members of the public and some level of media coverage in courtrooms. However, the level of access to courtroom proceedings varies across states, and judges may limit this access in cases that require some level of secrecy, states the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.
The key figures that participate in courtroom proceedings are the judge, clerk, bailiff and court reporter. Other parties that play central roles in courtroom trials include court interpreters, attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs and witnesses, according to the Arizona Supreme Court. Traditionally, court proceedings are open to the public and anyone has a right to oppose gag orders and fight for open proceedings, claims the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.
Under the Sixth Amendment, criminal offenses are subject to public trials. Public members and the media have a First Amendment right to participate in these proceedings. However, these rights are secondary to the wishes of the parties in the trial, who may waive the right to a public trial. Nevertheless, parties to the trial cannot compel a private hearing. In some cases, judges may close the courtroom to noncourtroom personnel for safety, privacy and decency reasons, states Nolo.