C. Procedure for requesting access in civil matters
Access to civil proceedings generally is unrestricted, and requests for records may be submitted to clerks of court. The Kansas Office of Judicial Administration can aid in gaining access. See You and the Courts of Kansas, at: http://www.kscourts.org/kansas-courts/general-information/you-and-the-courts/default.asp
In response to a denial of access to proceedings or records, however, the media may file a motion to intervene. Kansas Rules of Civil Procedure, in K.S.A. 60-224, includes a provision that, on “timely motion, the court must permit anyone to intervene who . . . claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter substantially impair or impede the movant’s ability to protect its interest.”
· Is formal intervention or mandamus necessary?
Formal intervention is required. Capital Cities Media, Inc. v. Toole, 483 A.2d 1339, 1344 (Pa. 1984). Mandamus is not required.
· In which court and how?
In civil matters, a person seeking access to records or proceedings should file a motion to intervene in the court in which the matter is being heard. Toole, 483 A.2d at 1344.
· Is there a press liaison that can help with access issues?
No. The court itself makes decisions on access issues. Each county employs different people and operates its own court system. Different courts have different practices. The county prothonotary or others in court administration might be able to provide assistance or guidance. The Office of Communications and Intergovernmental Relations of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (“AOPC”) fields inquiries from reporters across the state as part of its duties as media liaison. See Office of Communications and Intergovernmental Relations, The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, http://www.pacourts.us/judicial-administration/office-of-communications-and-intergovernmental-relations (last visited July 18, 2018). In high-profile criminal trials, the AOPC has worked with local courts on issues relating to media coverage.
· Is orally objecting or sending a letter to the judge acceptable?
Orally objecting at a proceeding is generally acceptable if the proceeding is in progress and the closure is happening at that time. In other circumstances, a written request for access should be made, normally through a motion. Some judges will accept a letter, depending on the nature of the relief sought. This is highly judge and court specific, however, so the best practice is to inquire with the court and chambers of the judge who is presiding over the matter.