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decided: December 23, 1982.



Author: Rehnquist

[ 459 U.S. Page 1302]


Applicants, KPNX Broadcasting Co. and several reporters and courtroom sketch artists, ask that I stay two orders issued by the Superior Court of Maricopa County, Ariz. Applicants are reporting on a murder case presently being tried before one of the judges of that court in Phoenix. This is the third trial to arise out of the same murder; three accomplices have been convicted in two previous jury trials. The crime allegedly involves several conspiracies and other connections with organized crime, and has generated extensive publicity. Some members of the jury venire expressed a fear for personal and family safety if they were selected as jurors. The trial court responded that it would do whatever was possible to prevent their pictures from being displayed. Early in the course of this trial, a magazine in Phoenix published an article about one of the prosecuting attorneys.

 The trial has been open to the public and press at all times. There has not been any restriction on the reporting of the proceedings in open court. The trial court has, however, entered two orders that "restrict" the press from covering the trial as it would like to do.

[ 459 U.S. Page 1303]

     First, the trial court ordered court personnel, counsel, witnesses, and jurors not to speak directly with the press. The court appointed a court employee as "Liaison with the media" to provide a "unified and singular source for the media concerning these proceedings."

Second, on November 30 the trial judge observed two of the applicants, who are television sketch artists, drawing the jurors. The court ordered that all drawings of jurors that are to be broadcast on television be reviewed by the court before being broadcast.

After the second order was issued, an organization calling itself the First Amendment Coalition sought a conference with the trial judge to object to these orders. Nothing was resolved at this conference, and the trial was then recessed until December 6. On that day, the First Amendment Coalition filed a petition for special action with the Supreme Court of Arizona, asking that court to vacate the two orders and enjoin the trial judge from issuing any similar orders. The Arizona Supreme Court dismissed this petition on December 8 on the ground that the First Amendment Coalition lacked standing and the petitioners had failed to join as parties the defendants in the murder trial.

On December 12, the present applicants filed a similar petition for special action and an application for a stay of the two orders. The following day, the Arizona Supreme Court denied the application for a stay and set the petition for oral argument for hearing on January 18. On December 14, the trial court held a hearing on applicants' standing to challenge the orders in that court. The trial court decided that applicants have standing, and set a hearing on their application to vacate the orders on December 17. Applicants also filed this application on December 17.

On December 20, the trial court entered an order explaining its earlier orders and declining to vacate them. With respect to the order that participants in the case not communicate with the press, the trial court stated that it had evaluated

[ 459 U.S. Page 1304]

     the press' First Amendment rights against the defendants' Sixth Amendment rights to a fair trial. It found that the least restrictive course of conduct that would protect the defendants' rights was to restrict the participants' outside contact with the press and appoint a court official to answer questions about the proceedings. As to the sketch order, the court held that the sketches of jurors by television artists were used in lieu of actual video recording of the jurors during the proceedings. It held that there is no constitutional right to broadcast pictures of the jurors, relying on Chandler v. Florida, 449 U.S. 560 (1981), and Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc., 435 U.S. 589 (1978).

Applicants contend that the order that trial participants not communicate with the press conflicts with Nebraska Press Assn. v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539 (1976), and with several decisions from the Federal Courts of Appeals. Applicants contend there was no showing that the order was necessary to protect the defendants' right to a fair trial. Respondents contend that this order is supportable on the merits because the trial court has struck a proper balance between the defendants' right to a fair trial and the press' First ...

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