Privacy in Guardianship Court Proceedings

I am frequently asked if guardianship court hearings are public proceedings.  The short answer is “Yes”.  However, there is a statutory provision that allows the Court to close the proceeding (make the hearing closed to the public) in limited circumstances.

Minn. Stat. 524.5-307 provides that “the hearing . . . may be closed at the request of the respondent and a showing of good cause.”

So who can make the request to close the hearing?  The request must be made by, or on behalf of, the respondent (the person for whom guardianship is sought).  If the respondent isn’t in a position to ask that the hearing be closed, his attorney or an interested party speaking on his behalf should make the request to the court.

What are some things that might be “good cause” to close the hearing?

  • Particularly sensitive or embarrassing information that will come out during the course of the hearing.  It’s probably NOT sufficient to say that medical information will be discussed, because that happens in virtually every guardianship proceeding. But if there is medical information that is extremely sensitive, it may be enough to constitute “good cause”.
  • Behaviors of the respondent that are triggered/exasperated by a crowd.  Sometimes a respondent has a diagnoses that causes behaviors or extreme anxiety around crowds or strangers. In cases like these, the Court may close the hearing, so that the respondent isn’t extremely agitated during the hearing.
  • Being a minor. Since other proceedings involving minors are closed (juvenile court, CHIPS proceedings), the Court often times will close minor guardianship or conservatorship hearings.
  • Other situations that are extremely sensitive, embarassing or that would be detrimental to the respondent’s health, safety and well-being if open/public hearing was to proceed.

 

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