Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Date Filed: July 12, 2022
Background: In May 2021, Courthouse News Service and several Vermont news organizations filed a federal lawsuit against Vermont court administrators over newly enacted rules that subjected all electronically filed civil complaints to an administrative review process before they could be made publicly accessible.
A federal district court ruled in favor of the news organizations, finding that denying access during the review process violated the public’s First Amendment right of contemporaneous access to civil complaints and was not narrowly tailored to advance a higher government interest. In her decision, Judge Christina Reiss enjoined the state court system from “delaying public access to electronically filed civil complaints until the … pre-access review process is complete.”
The state court administrators appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Our Position: The Second Circuit should affirm the lower court’s decision prohibiting the Vermont court system from delaying public access to electronically filed civil complaints until after the pre-access review process is complete.
- Timely access to newly filed civil complaints benefits the news media and the public.
- The First Amendment requires contemporaneous access to civil complaints.
Quote: “Prompt access to civil complaints ensures that the public learns about important cases while they are still newsworthy, promotes accuracy in reporting, and leads to more meaningful public debate about individual cases and the justice system as a whole.”
Related: The Reporters Committee has previously filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Courthouse News Service lawsuits successfully challenging court system rules delaying access to newly filed civil complaints, including in Courthouse News Service v. Glessner, Courthouse News Service v. Schaefer and Courthouse News Service v. Planet.