Countywide : Bid to Open Pretrial Hearings Is Set Back

The 4th District Court of Appeal on Friday refused to hear a joint request from the Orange County district attorney’s office, the Los Angeles Times Orange County Edition and the Orange County Register that the criminal calendar judge in Superior Court be forced to open his pretrial hearings to the public.

Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan, who became the presiding calendar judge in criminal court at the beginning of the year, reversed the open-court procedure adopted by his predecessor, Myron S. Brown, and moved the discussions back to the judge’s chambers.

It is in those closed-door hearings that the majority of criminal cases result in a guilty plea before a defendant’s case reaches trial.


Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi took the issue to the appellate court after Ryan twice refused the prosecutor’s motions that those in-chambers hearings be returned to open court and placed on the record with a court reporter.

But the appellate justices cited a case before them three years ago in a similar complaint by the public defender’s office demanding closed-door hearings. In that case, the justices found that the decision whether to close or open the hearings should be left up to the judge running the courtroom.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Wallace J. Wade said Friday that the next step, if Capizzi decides to pursue the issue, will be to file a new appeal with the state Supreme Court.

“I’m disappointed,” Wade said. “I had hoped that the justices would at least hold a hearing on the issue.”