Open Court Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Open Court, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Open Court?

Most of the courts proceeding are open to the general public who can freely enter the courtroom when the trial is on and be present to witness the trial. That’s the open court. There are courts which have judicial proceedings conducted under the camera or in private.

History and Meaning of Open Court

Open Court is the principle that most court hearings and trials are open to the public, except for when there is an overriding reason for a hearing to be closed. The principle is based on the idea that justice must be seen to be done, and that transparency in the justice system increases public confidence in it. The idea is that if anyone can attend a hearing and observe what happens, it is more likely that the justice system will be held accountable and be impartial.

Open Court has a long history in the common law tradition, where it has been a fundamental principle of the justice system. The origins of the principle can be traced back to the Magna Carta, the English charter of liberties signed in 1215 that established legal rights and limitations on the power of the monarchy. Open Court has become enshrined in law in many countries around the world.

Examples of Open Court

  1. A journalist attends a public hearing in a court of law to report on a high-profile criminal trial for their newspaper.
  2. A family member sits in the public gallery of a family court to observe proceedings related to a child custody dispute.
  3. A member of the public attends a small claims court to witness a dispute between two parties.
  4. The public is allowed to attend the trial of a celebrity in a criminal case, such as OJ Simpson's murder trial.
  5. A high-level court case with a lot of media attention allows the press to cover it live via cameras.

Legal Terms Similar to Open Court

  1. Public access: The principle of government transparency related to the public's right of access to documents and information.
  2. Freedom of information: The legal right that allows citizens to access government-published documents and data.
  3. Judicial accountability: The idea that judges must be held responsible for their decisions and be accountable to the public.