This Article looks at the enactment and subsequent nullification of a 1992 Washington law that state legislators intended to protect the privacy of child sex-crime victims. The Article uses this statute to illustrate that through the enactment of such statutes, politicians may sacrifice constitutional rights, such as freedom of the press and access to government proceedings, in order to achieve short-term political gains. Therefore, because it is somewhat less affected by elections and the political process, the judiciary is often the only branch of government responsible for protecting civil liberties. In the case of Washington's law on access to child sex-crime victims' names, politicians sought to curry favor by eliminating public and press access to court proceedings. Washington courts blocked the legislators' efforts, in the process issuing important statements about the value of openness in government.Part I of this Article provides a history of the controversy in Washington over the Shelton-Mason County Journal's publication of child sex-crime victims' names. Part II explains how this controversy led to the passage of a victim identification law that eliminated public and press access to court proceedings and documents in cases involving child sex-crime victims. The passage of this law resulted in a lawsuit by Washington media, who claimed their ability to monitor and report on court proceedings was severely damaged. Part III discusses the media's lawsuit. Part IV explores the Washington Supreme Court's rationale in overturning the victim identification law, reviewing precedents and detailing the court's decision. Finally, Part V of this Article discusses the historical importance of access to government proceedings and documents and explains why the judiciary historically has been more protective of the right to access than the legislature.
Michelle Johnson, Protecting Child Sex-Crime Victims: How Public Opinion and Political Expediency Threaten Civil Liberties, 20 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 401 (1997).