Sealed To Our Doom:
Sealed And Secret Court Proceedings
“Though the publication of such proceedings may be to the disadvantage of the particular individual concerned, yet it is of vast importance to the public that the proceedings of Courts of Justice should be universally known. The general advantage to the country in having these proceedings made public, more than counterbalances the inconveniences to the private persons whose conduct may be the subject of such proceedings.” King v. Wright, 8 D. & E. 293, 298, 101 Eng.Rep. 1396, 1399 (K.B. 1799)
The Dangerous Erosion Of Our Rights
We have spoken previously about the constant, unrelenting erosion of our constitutional rights including but not limited to: a right to bail and pretrial freedom, a right to a speedy trial, a right to call witnesses and give testimony (e.g., Eric Parker being suppressed by Navarro), and now, the blatant crushing of the public’s right to observe ALL of the court proceedings.
The Run Away Power Of A Federal Judge
Navarro has often referred to the legal term, “in camera” which literally means “in chamber” but has come to mean secret hearings, controlled by her, out of sight and out of the mind and consciousness of the public. So much power has Navarro, that she is not required to justify or give a reason for all of these secret and sealed meetings.
Currently, the Bundy et al case is a victim of numerous sealed and secret meetings, not open to the public. The defendants are sworn to keep the subject matter of the meetings secret, the violation of which would result in penalties to the defendants, up to and including being tossed back into prison for those who are now enjoying conditional release.
Furthermore, these secret and sealed meetings are not for any good reason. They are to protect the government actors (including the judge) from public scrutiny of previous and ongoing misconduct.
Is The Sealing Of Meetings And Evidence Ever Justified?
For the author, the short answer is a resounding “no”. The right of the accused and the right of the public, who may be accused someday, are superior to any privacy issues or even issues involving safety and security of witnesses or the parties, and these issues are subordinate to the overwhelming benefits of public observation.
“[I]t is one of the essential qualities of a court of justice that its proceedings should be public, and that all parties who may be desirous of hearing what is going on, if there be room in the place for that purpose, — provided they do not interrupt the proceedings, and provided there is no specific reason why they should be removed, — have a right to be present for the purpose of hearing what is going on.” Scott v. Scott,  A.C. 417, 438-439
The courts have found that members of the public have a strong interest in observing criminal proceedings, inasmuch as they involve crimes against society. And have added that, since courthouses, prosecutors, judges, and often defense attorneys are paid for with public funds, the public “has every right to ascertain by personal observation whether its officials are properly carrying out their duties in responsibly and capably administering justice” Commercial Printing Co. v. Lee, 262 Ark. 87, 553 S.W.2d 270 (1977)
“In publicity, we ‘have one tradition, at any rate, which has persisted through all changes’ from Anglo-Saxon times through the development of the modern common law. Pollock 31-32. See E. Jenks, The Book of English Law 73-74 (6th ed.1967). There is no evidence that criminal trials of any sort ever were conducted in private at common law, whether at the request of the defendant or over his objection. And there is strong evidence that the public trial, which developed before other procedural rights now routinely afforded the accused, widely was perceived as serving important social interests, relating to the integrity of the trial process, that exist apart from, and conceivably in opposition to, the interests of the individual defendant. Accordingly, I find no support in the common law antecedents of the Sixth Amendment public trial provision for the view that the guarantee of a public trial carries with it a correlative right to compel a private proceeding.” Gannett Co., Inc. v. DePasquale, 443 U.S. 368 (1979)
“a witness may frequently depose that in private which he will be ashamed to testify in a public and solemn tribunal.” 3 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *373. See M. Hale, The History of the Common Law of England 343, 345 (6th ed. 1820).Page 443 U. S. 422
It was recognized that publicity was an effective check on judicial abuse, since publicity made it certain that “if the judge be PARTIAL, his partiality and injustice will be evident to all by-standers.” Id. at 344. See 3 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *372.
So fundamental were public trials to English common law, and later to the founders of the USA, that even Star Chambers were mostly public:
“Apparently, not even the Court of Star Chamber, the name of which has been linked with secrecy, conducted hearings in private. 5 Holdsworth 156, and nn. 5 and 7, and 163; Radin, The Right to a Public Trial, 6 Temp.L.Q. 381, 386-387 (1932). Rather, the unbroken tradition of the English common law was that criminal trials were conducted ‘openlie in the presence of the Judges, the Justices, the enquest, the prisoner, and so manie as will or can come so neare as to heare it, and all depositions and witnesses given aloude, that all men may heare from the mouth of the depositors and witnesses what is saide.’” T. Smith, De Republica Anglorum 101 (Alston ed.1972).
The Right Of The Public To Know Is Even Greater Than The Rights
Of The Accused Or Any Other Party In A Judicial Proceeding
Because prosecutorial and judicial abuses can reach out and touch any citizen, it is the right of all citizens to observe what is going on in the courtrooms across America. What has happened to Bundy et al, Schaeffer Cox, and many others… CAN HAPPEN TO YOU AND ME!
The prosecution, in a display of its many abuses, has threatened any person who was present at the Bunkerville protest, or even before and after the protest, as being an unindicted co-conspirator and as such, is subject to prosecution and the same treatment of the current defendants, i.e., two years of pretrial prison and its attendant hell. This could extend to any person who has submitted any kind of article or post in support of the Bundy et al defendants. In the previous trials, we have seen the lengths to which the prosecution will go in using Facebook posts and other information to obtain convictions, or at least indictments, and the resulting imprisonment pending trial.
Given full rein to work their injustices, including the leverage to get plea deals, there is no limit to how far the government can go, if not subject to scrutiny by the public.
Therefore, it is absolutely indispensable that we, the people, are able to observe all proceedings of the court and that, we, the people, have a way to protest and find remedies to the erosion of our rights.
Is The Sacrifice By The Bundys And Others Worth It?
Ammon, and the rest of the defendants, have paid an incomprehensible price at all levels in dealing with these erosions of constitutional rights, but a price that must be paid to stem the destructive erosion by powerful persons who seek to overthrow our freedoms, who seek to destroy our constitutional rights.
If Ammon Bundy and others had not called attention to what is really going on by their sacrifice, then who would?
“I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil.” — Ben Franklin
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