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State v. Andy

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

December 31, 2014

The State of Washington, Respondent ,
v.
Joey Anthony Andy, Appellant

Argued November 18, 2014

Joey Anthony Andy, pro se.

David N. Gasch (of Gasch Law Office ), for appellant.

James P. Hagarty, Prosecuting Attorney, and David B. Trefry and Jennifer P. Joseph, Deputies, for respondent.

AUTHOR: Justice Susan Owens. WE CONCUR: Chief Justice Barbara A. Madsen, Justice Charles W. Johnson, Justice Mary E. Fairhurst, Justice Debra L. Stephens, Justice Charles K. Wiggins, Justice Steven C. Gonzáles, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Justice Mary I. Yu.

OPINION

Page 841

Owens, J.

[182 Wn.2d 296] ¶ 1 In Washington, criminal defendants have the right to a public trial. Const. art. I, § 22. Courtrooms may be closed only in certain limited circumstances. Today, we evaluate whether a potential obstacle to public access constituted a courtroom closure. The potential obstacle in this case was a sign that listed the courthouse hours. [182 Wn.2d 297] Defendant Joey Andy argues that because the sign listed a specific closing time and his criminal trial proceedings continued after the listed closing time, the sign constituted a courtroom closure. However, the evidence shows that at all times during Andy's trial proceedings, the door to the courthouse was unlocked and no member of the public was deterred from attending the proceedings by the sign. Therefore, we conclude that the sign did not constitute a courtroom closure and Andy's public trial right was not violated.

FACTS

¶ 2 After a jury trial in Yakima County Superior Court, Andy was convicted of first degree burglary and second degree assault. He appealed, claiming that his public trial right was violated when proceedings on some

Page 842

days continued after 4:00 p.m. despite the new 4:00 p.m. closing time for the courthouse. Pursuant to RAP 9.11, Andy moved to remand the case to the superior court to take " additional evidence to determine whether the courthouse doors were locked at 4 p.m. on the dates of the trial ... and if so, whether that closure barred entry to the ongoing courtroom proceedings." Mot. to Remand, No. 31018-3-III, at 1 (Wash. Ct. App. Mar. 5, 2013). The Court of Appeals commissioner granted the motion. As described below, the superior court entered findings of fact that the answer to both questions was no.

¶ 3 At the hearing, the superior court heard from six witnesses who primarily testified regarding general courthouse policies and procedures. Courthouse security personnel testified that the courthouse entrances and hours were restructured in October 2011 to address security and staffing issues. At that time, two entrances were closed and a permanent security station and metal detector were added to the remaining entrance. In addition, the board of county commissioners changed the courthouse hours to 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for staffing reasons. The previous hours were 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

¶ 4 [182 Wn.2d 298] Lieutenant Brian Winter, the individual responsible for security at the Yakima County courthouse, testified that during June 2012, a paper sign was posted on the courthouse door listing the courthouse hours. He read the sign into the record as follows:

[T]he courthouse closes at 4:00 p.m. Office hours, auditor 9:00 to 3:30, HR, which was human resources, 9:00 to 4:00, district court clerks 8:00 to 4:00, superior court clerks 8:30 to 4:00. All others 8:00 to 4:00. The bottom line on the document says court closes at 5:00 p.m.

1 Verbatim Report of Proceedings, Reference Hearing (VRP-RH) at 152. [1]

¶ 5 Despite the new courthouse hours, the superior court judges insisted that the building needed to be open while court was in session. To accommodate the judges, courthouse security created a set of policies to ensure that the building doors remained open while court was in session.

¶ 6 First, if court continued past 4:00 p.m., a court clerk would call security to let them know that court was still in session. Second, at the end of each day, security would check every courtroom to make sure all trial proceedings had ended prior to locking the courthouse doors. If any courtroom was in session, the courthouse doors would remain open. Other mechanisms that courthouse security used to track whether court was in session were calling the court clerks to find out the estimated duration of ongoing ...


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