Are hearings held in public and are documents filed at court available to the public? Are there any exceptions?

Litigation & Dispute Resolution

Switzerland Small Flag Switzerland

Hearings are usually public, but the public may be excluded upon request of either party, if the requesting party establishes a legitimate interest. It can however be noted that commercial litigation does not attract a lot of public interest, which is why court hearings are usually not visited by persons other than representatives of the parities. Settlement hearings are in most cases not public as a matter of principle. Documents filed at court are not available to the public.

Chile Small Flag Chile

In Chile, civil and commercial proceedings are mainly written at first level courts. Hearings are an exception and they are not held in public since they are limited to certain specific matters (e.g. witnesses’ interrogation, appointment of expert witnesses).

Before second instance courts, oral proceedings are the general rule and hearings are held publicly.

The documents filed at court are accessible to the public in both first and second instance courts. The case file is public and access is available at the courts and also electronically via internet, since it is uploaded to the Justice Administration website.

Documents submitted to the court will be public unless law stipulates otherwise under express text of law. Exceptionally, parties could request privacy and non-public access for some documents because of confidentiality or other justified reasons.

In the arbitration procedures rule absolute privacy either for filings, hearings and documents.

Sweden Small Flag Sweden

Sweden employs the principle of public access; documents sent to and by courts are made official in the sense that the general public has access to the documents and are able to attend hearings. There are, however, exceptions to this principle. Secrecy can apply under the Swedish Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act (Sw. offentlighets- och sekretesslagen) to information that concerns a private party’s business or operations if it can be assumed that disclosure of the information would cause harm to that party. In practice, this means that the general public is unable to take part of such information and that, if any such information is to be presented during a hearing, that particular part of the hearing will be held without public access.

Portugal Small Flag Portugal

As a general rule, hearings are held in public unless the court, in order to safeguard personal dignity, public morality or is own normal operation, decides otherwise.

As far as documents are concerned, they can be accessed by the parties or by anyone who has a judicial mandate or a relevant interest on the case. However, if the disclosure of the contents is liable to arm personal dignity, privacy or public morality or undermine the effectiveness of the court decision, access may be limited or denied.

UAE Small Flag UAE

Pursuant to Article 76 of the Civil Procedures Law hearings shall be public.

However, there are exceptions if the Court, of its own discretion or at the request of any party, decides to hold a closed/private hearing as to maintain public order, or to observe morals or family privacy.

Documents and memos filed in court are not public and are only available to the parties and their legal representatives.

Saudi Arabia Small Flag Saudi Arabia

Hearings before the Commercial Court are held in open court, but proceed mainly on documents. Documents filed in court are not available to the public. When judgments are published, the parties’ names are not reported. Proceedings before specialized tribunals are in camera.

Norway Small Flag Norway

Hearings are held in public. The public is entitled to access to court records, records of judicial mediation, judicial rulings and statements of costs. In addition, in cases that are not heard entirely in writing, the public is also entitled to access to written closing submissions, and evidence and supporting documents that are invoked at an oral hearing. The most relevant exception from public access for commercial disputes, allows the court to refuse access to documents that contain trade or business secrets.

United States Small Flag United States

U.S. courts recognize a common law right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents. However, this right is not absolute, and courts have the authority to deny access where court files may be used for improper purposes or where certain privacy concerns exist (e.g., medical records or competitively sensitive information). Where sensitive information is to be filed, parties often have the option to file such information under seal, allowing access to the court and related personnel but withholding the information from the public.

While the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized a presumptive First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings in criminal cases, it has not directly addressed whether this right applies to civil proceedings. Some state courts (e.g., the California Supreme Court) have interpreted the First Amendment right of access to apply to civil as well as criminal proceedings. Nonetheless, courts generally permit the public to attend civil hearings and restrict access only in limited circumstances (e.g., where certain privacy concerns exist).

Austria Small Flag Austria

Court files and documents are only available to the parties of a proceeding and not to the public. Court hearings are generally open to the public. However, the public may be excluded from a hearing for certain reasons, e.g. in order to protect privacy or business secrets. Anonymised judgments rendered by the Austrian Supreme Court (and sometimes by lower courts as well) are published on the internet and are available on the website of the Austrian legal information database (RIS) on www.ris.bka.gv.at.

Japan Small Flag Japan

In principle, court hearings must be held in public (with some exceptions including preparatory hearings which are not open to the public). In addition, anyone may view documents filed at court, and a person who can show interest in the case may get copies of those documents (CCP, Article 91(1)). However, the court, at the petition of a party to a case and if it finds grounds to grant the petition, may order limited public access to certain portions of the case documents that include private information or business secrets (Id., Article 92).

Updated: June 13, 2018