from the District Court of Ward County, North Central
Judicial District, the Honorable Stacy J. Louser, Judge.
A. Miller, Ward County Assistant State's Attorney, Minot,
ND, for plaintiff and appellee.
C. Kraus-Parr, Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellant.
1] Alexander Pittenger appeals from a criminal judgment
entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of corruption
and solicitation of a minor and from an order denying a
motion to dismiss the charge. We reverse the criminal
judgment because the district court committed structural
error by closing the courtroom during the complaining
witness' testimony without considering the appropriate
2] The facts relevant to this appeal are that a jury
convicted Pittenger of class A misdemeanor corruption or
solicitation of a minor in violation of N.D.C.C. §
12.1-20-05. The district court closed the courtroom during
the complaining witness' testimony. Pittenger objected to
closing the courtroom and after his conviction he appealed.
During pendency of the appeal this Court temporarily remanded
the case to the district court to consider an
"appropriate motion" in conjunction with the
parties' stipulation that a "'structural error
[occurred] in closing the courtroom during part of the
State's case-in-chief.'" The State filed a
motion to dismiss the charge with the district court. The
court denied the motion and the case returned to this Court.
3] Pittenger argues, and the State agrees, the district court
committed reversible error in closing the courtroom during
the complaining witness' testimony.
4] Denial of the right to a public trial without proper
analysis is a structural error requiring automatic reversal.
See State v. Rogers, 2018 ND 244, ¶¶ 3, 6,
919 N.W.2d 193; State v. Decker, 2018 ND 43, ¶
8, 907 N.W.2d 378. Four constitutionally mandated factors
must be considered before closing a courtroom to the public:
"1. the claiming party must advance an overriding
interest that is likely to be prejudiced,
2. the closure must be no broader than necessary to protect
3. the trial court must consider reasonable alternatives to
closing the proceeding, and
4. it must make findings adequate to support the
Rogers, at ¶ 15; Decker, at ¶ 9
(citing Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39, ...