Supreme Judicial Court (March 28, 2007)

There is no First Amendment right of public access to show cause hearings.

Significant publicity followed the stabbing of a 20 year-old woman at a nightclub in Lawrence, after she was allegedly served alcohol despite being under the legal drinking age. The Lawrence police department filed an application for issuance of criminal process in the District Court against the nightclub's corporate owner and pursuant to c. 218, §35A, a "show cause" hearing was scheduled. The Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company (Eagle-Tribune) sought access to the show cause hearing, arguing there was a First Amendment right under the Federal Constitution. The Court denied the Eagle-Tribune access to the hearing, and the Eagle Tribune subsequently appealed to the SJC. The Court held there is no First Amendment right of public access to show cause hearings.

Note: While the First Amendment does not require that a Massachusetts show cause hearing be open to the public, the Court mentioned there may be circumstances under which an open hearing could be appropriate.