NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · CONNECTICUT · Secret Courts · Oct. 31, 2006
Committees recommend increased court access
Oct. 31, 2006 · Connecticut state courts soon may be more accessible to the public if recommendations suggested by two panels are implemented.
The Judicial Branch Public Access Task Force, formed by the state judicial branch, and the Commission on Judicial Reform, formed by the governor, recently released recommendations concerning court access.
The panels were formed in the wake of a controversy that erupted in late April surrounding former Chief Justice William J. Sullivan. Sullivan has admitted that he delayed the release of a court decision in a Freedom of Information Act case so that the opinion would not become a negative issue during the nomination process of his successor.
In a report released Sept. 15, the Judicial Branch Public Access Task Force made 38 recommendations. On Sept. 28, state Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice David M. Borden endorsed 35 of the recommendations and announced that some would be implemented without delay. For example, there will be online access to the daily criminal dockets and members of the public will be able to use hand-held scanners to copy court records.
Borden said that some of the proposals, such as expanding electronic access to oral arguments, would need to be approved by lower court judges.
The Commission on Judicial Reform this month recommended amending the state’s Freedom of Information Act to make court records and meetings more accessible, opening appellate proceedings to broadcasting and photography, establishing a pilot program to develop rules for the broadcasting of trial court proceedings, and permitting juvenile courts to open proceedings in matters concerning abused children with identity-protection procedures in place.
The proposals would have to be implemented by either the Legislature or judiciary in order to take effect.