Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Sorenson v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 4, 2013)

Christopher Sorenson has two jury trials in 2011 to determine whether he's sufficiently ill to be involuntarily committed.  For whatever reason, after the second of these trials, he's not committed.

Eight days later, he kills his mother.

You can see why newspapers might want to look at the transcript of the proceedings.  Did he really seem competent?  Did the jury find him sane?  Did the prosecutor dismiss the charges?  What went down in the week prior to his decision a week later to kill his mother?

The Court of Appeal notes that there are substantial interests both for and against the media's request.  On the one hand, there's a substantial (and understandable) interest in the proceedings.  On the other hand, any proceedings to involuntarily commit someone involve lots of private information, and are presumptively not open to the public.  You can walk into a criminal trial.  For good reason.  You can't walk into a proceeding to involuntarily commit someone.  For good reason as well.

The Court of Appeal ultimately holds that the trial court didn't properly order the release of the transcripts.  It's a nonpublic proceeding.  However much interest one might have in seeing what goes on there.

A close -- and important -- case.