Court OKs Closing Courtroom for HYTA Case


Case: People v. GR

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Published Opinion )

Judges: Borrello, K.F. Kelly, and Servitto

Issues:

Closing proceedings to the public; The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA) (MCL 762.11 et seq.); People v. Dipiazza; MCL 762.14(4); People v. Bobek; “Disposition” of criminal charges; MCL 762.14(1); Whether the probation hearings were actually conducted under MCL 803.223 & MCR 6.935 rather than under the HYTA; Controlling effect of MCL 762.14(4) over MCL 803.223 & MCR 6.935; People v. Arnold; Whether MCR 3.925(A)(1) required that the proceedings be open to the public; Constitutionality of MCL 762.14(4); People v. Vaughn; The public’s First Amendment right of access; Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court (Press-Enterprise II); Detroit News, Inc. v. Recorder’s Court Judge (After Remand); Wide differences between the procedural rights accorded to adults & to juveniles; In re Application of Gault; Absence of citation to legal authority for the proposition proceedings involving juveniles have historically been open to the public; In re Oliver; Plain error review; People v. Carines

Summary:

Holding that the trial court did not plainly err in closing the proceedings to the public under the HYTA, and that MCL 762.14(4) was not unconstitutional as applied, the court in these consolidated appeals affirmed the grant of defendants’ motions to close the proceedings. They were charged related to allegations they were planning a school shooting. They entered into plea agreements and were sentenced under the HYTA to five years’ probation. Later, in the context of their “probation review hearings, the trial court ruled that the proceedings would be closed” under the HYTA and Bobek. The prosecution argued that the “statute should be ‘interpreted to only close proceedings from public view after the individual has successfully completed the terms of their sentence and been discharged from youthful trainee status.’” But in Bobek, the court held that “MCL 762.14(4) means that all matters and hearings brought before the court in a case after the defendant had been assigned youthful trainee statutes are to be closed to the public.” As the trial court granted defendants youthful trainee status at their sentencing hearings, their probation review hearings were “considered proceedings that must be closed to the public pursuant to MCL 762.14(4), and the trial court did not err by” closing them. The court also rejected the prosecution’s argument that the probation review hearings “were not ‘proceedings regarding the disposition of the criminal charge.’” Further, MCL 803.223 and MCR 6.935 did not support the contention that those hearings had to automatically remain public, and MCL 762.14(4) controls over those provisions because it more specifically applies to defendants assigned youthful trainee status under the HYTA. In addition, even if MCR 3.925(A) applied, the statute would control for the same reasons. Finally, applying the Press-Enterprise II test, the court rejected the prosecution’s constitutional challenge. It noted the wide differences between juveniles’ procedural rights and those of adults, and the absence of any legal authority cited “for the proposition that proceedings involving juveniles have historically been open to the public.” Further, there was “no indication that the public plays a significant role in the function of the hearings at issue . . . .” The court found that “keeping the proceedings at issue open to the public would defeat the rehabilitative aims of HYTA.”

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