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Newspaper asks for state Supreme Court records

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         IOWA         Secret Courts         Aug 13, 2002    

Newspaper asks for state Supreme Court records

  • The Des Moines Register filed a lawsuit in its pursuit for access to court records in a high-profile case involving Planned Parenthood and an abandoned baby.

When the Iowa Supreme Court issued an order earlier this month that blocked a lower court ruling against a local Planned Parenthood office, journalists were anxious to examine the state high court’s documents.

But reporters so far have been denied access to that order, as well as the original ruling from the lower court that orders Planned Parenthood to turn over names of all women who had positive pregnancy tests between last August and May.

The Des Moines Register has filed suit against the Buena Vista County Clerk’s office to obtain access to those original orders and expects a resolution next week. The paper’s attorneys last week also filed a written request with the clerk of the Iowa Supreme Court. But attorney Michael A. Giudicessi said that “it’s anyone’s guess” when that court will respond.

The case, which has gained national media attention, centers on a newborn baby boy found dead in a Buena Vista County recycling center’s shredding machine on May 30. Police have not been able to find the baby’s parents, so they have requested lists of women from clinics and doctors in the area who may have given birth around the end of May or were given pregnancy tests up to nine months before that.

Several doctors have complied, but Planned Parenthood has refused, saying those medical records — about 1,000 of them — are private. The organization has not complied with two orders from a county district judge to turn over the records and appealed to the state Supreme Court. The court stayed the lower court’s order on Aug. 6. The court’s decision also put on hold penalties against the Planned Parenthood director, who was told to turn over the documents by Aug. 17 or face fines or jail time for contempt of court.

The county attorney has until Aug. 19 to respond to the Supreme Court order.

(Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa, Inc., v. The Iowa District Court for Buena Vista County; Media counsel: Michael A. Giudicessi, Faegre & Benson LLP, Des Moines, Iowa) JE

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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