On Tuesday, September 23, a policeman stationed at the public access door to city hall denied access to city court to members of Black Lives Matter attempting to attend the hearing for several of their members. Some supporters and family members of those being arraigned had earlier gained entrance to the hearing.
Who instructed the police officer to deny them access and why remains unknown.
A Serious Violation Of Our Justice System
This event is deeply disturbing. Access to our courts is a fundamental right. Only on the rarest of occasions and at the discretion of the presiding judge is the public denied access to a legal proceeding. Trials held in secret are traditionally known as “Star Chambers.”
The Star Chamber’s history goes back to to England in the middle ages. The “star” is a reference to the stars on the ceiling of the room in which it held its trials. According to the website The First Amendment Encyclopedia, King Charles I exploited the court to punish his critics. It was abolished in 1641 by the Long Parliament. This was an important advancement towards a fairer system of justice.
The transparency of our courts is fundamental to minimize the potential for the abuse of power.
I would ask the readers of this blog to consider how they would feel if they believed that the state was unfairly persecuting someone using the courts and they tried to support that person by attending their hearing only to be turned away.
Whatever criticisms I may have of the local BLM group, their denial of access to city court is an egregious abuse.
Commissioner Robin Dalton Responds
Today I received this press release from Commissioner Dalton:
In conversation with Commissioner Dalton should told me:
I consider the right of access to the courts to be fundamental to our system of justice. It is my intention to rigorously investigate what happened that morning to determine who is culpable in the decision to deny access. The determination as to who can attend a court hearing must rest with the courts.
This is not about Black Lives Matter. It is not about left or right. It is about protecting our justice system.
The people of this city deserve to know what happened and I am dedicated to providing them with answers.Commissioner Robin Dalton