Right of Public Access to Civil Court Cases
Commenters have occasionally asked why American law generally recognizes a right of public access to civil court cases between two private parties. Why not treat those cases as just a private matter of purely private concern?
I think Justice Holmes put it well in Cowley v. Pulsifer (Mass. 1884), a case about people’s right to report on civil court cases without fear of libel liability:
The chief advantage to the country which we can discern [from the right to publish information from judicial proceedings] … is the security which publicity gives for the proper administration of justice…. It is desirable that the trial of causes should take place under the public eye, not because the controversies of one citizen with another are of public concern, but because it is of the highest moment that tho
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