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Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute v. Obhof

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  1. Court Access

Amicus Brief filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Date Filed: Sept. 20, 2019

Update: On Feb. 5, 2020, the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. In an opinion that closely mirrored the Reporters Committee’s arguments, the court held that the defendants’ appeal seeking to make certain records secret was moot because those records had already been released to the public, including as exhibits at a public trial.

Background: As part of a lawsuit brought by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union in May 2018, a U.S. district court ordered the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and former redistricting coordinator Adam Kincaid to disclose documents that would shed light on the Ohio redistricting process. The court denied their request for a sealing order that would allow them to shield the documents from the public.

In June 2019, those same entities appealed to the Sixth Circuit, seeking to reverse that ruling and place their records under seal.

Our position: The Sixth Circuit should uphold the district court’s order requiring disclosure of the documents in question.

  • The First Amendment and common law create a strong presumption in favor of public access to court records.
  • No effective remedy is available to the Appellants because journalists will remain free to publish information they obtained in open court or through other lawful means.

Quote: “The First Amendment protects journalists’ right to publish this information. To the extent that reporters learned the contents of these documents from attending the trial, they have a First Amendment right to publish what they observed. And to the extent that journalists have already lawfully obtained these documents in another way, they cannot be prevented from publishing them.”

Related: Reporters Committee staff members consistently monitor issues of court access across the country, from media restrictions in courtrooms to barriers between the public and court documents. Learn more about the cases we’re following.