Gibbons v. Savage, No. 07-3306-pr (2d Cir. January 28, 2009)(McLaughlin, Leval, Pooler, CJJ).
At Robert Gibbons’ state court trial, the judge closed the courtroom during jury selection, expelling the only spectator, Gibbons’ mother. After exhausting his state court appeals, Gibbons filed a 2254 petition, which the district court dismissed. The circuit affirmed. In doing so, however, it created a new doctrine – the “trivial structural error.”
The circuit agreed that the state judge deprived Gibbons of his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial, because there was indeed a “closure” of the courtroom – the public was “categorically excluded,” and the courtroom was closed to “all spectators” during jury selection
The court also agreed that the Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39 (1984) test was satisfied. First, there was no “overriding interest” for the closure. Even though the courtroom was small, space could still have been found for a single …