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Name: Alvarez v. Superior Court of San Mateo
Case #: A117202
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 08/24/2007

When a defendant seeks to seal grand jury transcripts of the indictment proceedings until the completion of trial, he need only show that there is a reasonable likelihood of prejudice if the transcripts are not sealed. (Pen. Code, sec. 938.1, subd. (b).)

The public and press have only a limited statutory right of access to the transcripts and the First Amendment does not take precedence over defendant’s right to a fair trial by dictating application of a more stringent standard of prejudice in defendant’s action to seal transcripts. Alvarez was indicted by a grand jury for the murder of a police officer. The trial court agreed with the position of the Mercury News that defendant was required to show a substantial probability of prejudice in a motion to seal the transcripts. The appellate court summarily denied defendant’s petition for writ of mandate but the Supreme Court granted review and transferred the matter back to the appellate court. Upon reconsideration, the appellate court granted the petition for writ of mandate and remanded to the trial court for reconsideration of the motion to seal under the reasonable likelihood standard.