December 28, 2009

Shame on you, Judge Glass

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that the full questionnaires filled out by jurors in the O.J. Simpson robbery and kidnapping case be released to the public.

District Judge Jackie Glass redacted portions of the questionnaires before releasing them the day after the guilty verdicts were delivered. Judge Glass ruled the forms should be withheld because she "promised" the jurors they would remain private.

One would hope a relatively respected judge would realize that personal commitments do not trump the law of the land, but apparently Judge Glass needed a reminder. Thankfully, the Supreme Court's decision delivered one:

We further conclude that juror questionnaires used in jury selection are, like the jury-selection process itself, presumptively subject to public disclosure. The presumption of openness may be overcome, however, only if the district court identifies a countervailing interest to public access and demonstrates, by specific findings, that closure is necessary and narrowly tailored to serve a higher interest.

The Court's decision reaffirms the common-sense doctrine that public documents should be made open by default. Judge Glass and other public officials should take note of this decision and adjust their attitudes towards transparency accordingly.