Court of Appeals Rules that Completed Jury Questionnaires May Be Subject to Public Disclosure Pursuant to First Amendment

On January 19, 2012, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals decided In re Access to Jury Questionnaires, No. 10-SP-1612, slip op. (D.C. Jan. 19, 2012). In that case, the Court of Appeals considered an appeal by The Washington Post (“The Post”) of a trial court order denying a request by The Post and other media organizations for public access to questionnaires completed during voir dire by jurors who were empaneled in the trial for the murder of Chandra Levy. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in failing to recognize that, pursuant to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, The Post “has a presumptive right of access to the [completed] jury questionnaires.” Id. at 2. It also held that the trial court erred by not making “specific findings about the protectible privacy interests at stake and considering alternatives to complete closure.” Id. The Court of Appeals therefore reversed the trial court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. Id.