Open, Public Family Courts? Maybe Not So Much … in Some Areas

As a matter of public policy, Florida is big on transparency. That’s why we have Sunshine Laws.

In general, our courtrooms are open. Even in family court.

Not so everywhere though.

New York law mandates that its family courts are open to public access. And in theory they are, going on fourteen years.

But, in practice, the reality is a bit different.

Common practices have been demonstrated to include:

  • locked courtroom doors

  • Do Not Enter and Stop signs on courtroom doors

  • signs proclaiming that only people on official business may enter

  • guards challenging those seeking entrance to courtrooms

  • guards flat-out denying access to courtrooms

  • a judge admonishing a reporter to report to a clerk to show his press pass, who in turn told the reporter … that he needed permission from the chief administrative judge to observe in the courtroom

  • another judge characterizing family court proceedings as “confidential”

How hit or miss is open access to family courts in New York?

A reporter on a mission to find out was actually denied access to thirty-five courtrooms – out of forty.

Even after identifying himself as a member of the press.

Top representatives of New York’s courts apologized and vowed to do better.

Time will tell …

Read more in this New York Times article: New York Family Courts Say Keep Out, Despite Order.