Washington v. Whitlock (Majority)Annotate this Case
In Washington v. Smith, 334 P.3d 1049 (2014), the Washington Supreme Court held that the constitutional right to an open courtroom did not require trial courts to invite the public to attend sidebars. examples of sidebar discussions are often scheduling, housekeeping, and decorum. In this case, however, the topic of discussion was the proper extent of cross-examination of a confidential informant who was the State's key witness and the location of the discussion was not at sidebar but in the judge's chambers. In fact, the trial court rejected the State's request to address its objection to the scope of cross-examination at sidebar. Instead, the court adjourned the bench trial proceedings, called counsel into chambers, and discussed that critically important and factually complicated issue behind closed doors. The Court of Appeals ruled that this procedure violated the right to an open courtroom and conflicted with Smith. The State sought review, and the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and reaffirmed its adherence to Smith.