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Media lose challenge to keep court records open

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         KANSAS         Secret Courts         Aug 4, 2000    

Media lose challenge to keep court records open

  • The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a local media effort to open records in a triple-murder trial is a moot issue, thus apparently allowing trial judges to keep court records closed during trial.

The Kansas Supreme Court on July 13 dismissed a request by three Kansas newspapers and the state press association to keep court records public during criminal trials.

McPherson County District Judge Carl Anderson ruled in November of 1999 that he would review all motions made in a local triple-murder trial that came before the court before making the motions publicly available. The Hutchinson News, The Salina Journal, The Wichita Eagle and the Kansas Press Association, all represented by attorney Mike Merriam, filed an objection to Anderson’s ruling.

After Anderson overruled the media’s challenge, the media group appealed to the state’s high court. The court held that the issue was now moot, because the murder suspect, Christopher Jones, pleaded guilty to the charges against him on July 5 of this year.

Merriam argued that the high court should have heard the appeal because this is a situation that is “capable of repetition but evading review,” and that he expects district judges to follow Anderson’s lead when murder cases now come before them.

“This is the third time in four years we’ve had district court judges make these kind of rulings in communities we cover,” Hutchinson News publisher Jim Bloom, told the Associated Press.

“It’s going to happen again,” Merriam said.

(Kansas v. Jones; Media Counsel: Michael Merriam, Topeka) JM

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