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Appellate court says court tapes are not subject to disclosure

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Appellate Court says court tapes are not subject to disclosure11/29/94 CONNECTICUT -- Official court tape recordings of civil proceedings are…

Appellate Court says court tapes are not subject to disclosure

11/29/94

CONNECTICUT — Official court tape recordings of civil proceedings are exempt from the Connecticut open records act’s disclosure requirements, according to an early-November decision by the Appellate Court of Connecticut in Hartford.

In an unsigned opinion, the court summarily affirmed an early August 1993 state superior court decision and adopted its opinion.

Robert Fromer had written to a superior court clerk in early August 1991, requesting permission to listen at the courthouse to tapes of August 1990 proceedings in his civil case. The clerk denied the request in mid-August 1991. Fromer appealed in September 1991 to the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission.

The Commission denied the request in August 1992. The Commission reasoned that the state open records act applies to court clerks in their administrative capacity only. Concluding that trial tape recordings are adjudicative, not administrative, the Commission held that they do not fall within the Act’s disclosure provisions.

The Commission refused to address the First Amendment issue, stating that it did not have jurisdiction over constitutional claims.

Fromer appealed to the Superior Court in New London, arguing that although he can purchase transcripts of the tapes, such a procedure interferes with his right of access under the open records act. He also argued that the court should classify the act of preserving records of the adjudicative process as an administrative function.

The Commission argued that recording proceedings is part of the adjudication of cases, not management of the court system, and so appropriately deemed non-administrative. The Commission said that transcripts of those recordings are also non-administrative and therefore not subject to the open records act.

Stating that courts should give great weight to agency decisions and finding the Commission’s decision reasonable, the Superior Court affirmed the Commission holding.

(Fromer v. Freedom of Info. Comm’n)