The District Court in Arapahoe County, Colo. has denied an attempt by defense lawyers to restrict access to court records in the case of alleged Colorado theater gunman James Holmes.
Holmes had asked the court to suppress all transcripts of the proceedings and the register of actions, and deny electronic access to the records in the case. The court denied the request without a hearing on Nov. 22.
Since much of the information has already been released, the court wrote that suppressing it now was not likely to eliminate any risk to the fairness of the trial. The court previously issued an order to keep bench conferences confidential, but all other proceedings are open to the public. Since the proceedings remain open, “It would defy logic and common sense to suppress the transcripts of those proceedings,” Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. wrote in the order denying the motion.
In denying the request to remove the case from the website Samour noted that the defendant was not trying to make the case confidential, but was instead attempting to make it more difficult for the public to access information in the case.
If the court had granted the motion it would have meant that instead of court documents being available online, people trying to access them would have to request the documents from the courthouse, in Centennial, Colo., in person. Noting that the courthouse would likely have to hire new employees to handle the incoming requests for documents Samour wrote that the, “removal of the case’s hyperlink from the court’s website would prove unnecessarily burdensome and unmanageable for the public, the media and the clerk’s office.”
The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to the court opposing the defense motion, arguing that removing documents from the website would make it hard for journalists to cover a case that involves issues of national importance. The court quoted excerpts of the letter in its opinion: "Electronic access is simply a more efficient and meaningful level of the access that has long been considered a bedrock principle of public justice and openness in this country."
Related Reporters Committee resources:
· The First Amendment Handbook: 7. Access to Courts