Page 435 U. S. 839
it is assumed that judges will ignore the public clamor or media reports and editorials in reaching their decisions, and, by tradition, will not respond to public commentary, the law gives "[j]udges as persons, or courts as institutions . . . no greater immunity from criticism than other persons or institutions." Bridges v. California, 314 U. S. 252, 314 U. S. 289 (1941) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting).
The operations of the courts and the judicial conduct of judges are matters of utmost public concern.
"A responsible press has always been regarded as the handmaiden of effective judicial administration. . . . Its function in this regard is documented by an impressive record of service over several centuries. The press does not simply publish information about trials, but guards against the miscarriage of justice by subjecting the police, prosecutors, and judicial processes to extensive public scrutiny and criticism."
"The Commonwealth concedes that, "[w]ithout question, the First Amendment seeks to protect the freedom of the press
Page 435 U. S. 840
to report and to criticize judicial conduct," Brief for Appellee 17, but it argues that such protection does not extend to the publication of information "which by Constitutional mandate is to be confidential." Ibid. Our recent decision in Cox Broadcasting Corp. v. Cohn, supra, is relied upon to support this interpretation of the scope of the freedom of speech and press guarantees. As we read Cox, it does not provide the answer to the question now confronting us. Our holding there was that a civil action against a television station for breach of privacy could not be maintained consistently with the First Amendment when the station had broadcast only information which was already in the public domain.
"At the very least, the First and Fourteenth Amendments will not allow exposing the press to liability for truthfully publishing information released to the public in official court records."
420 U.S. at 420 U. S. 496."