Paper sues over fees for electronic court records
CALIFORNIA–The Los Angeles Times filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County in mid-October alleging that new fees for electronic access to court documents unconstitutionally restrict access to public records.
In the suit filed in federal District Court in Los Angeles, the Times said that the fees violate the First Amendment because they would restrict media access to computerized court records, thereby restricting press comment on public proceedings.
The Los Angeles Municipal and Superior Courts arranged in early October for private companies to provide court documents and data in electronic form. Although they have not yet established prices, the providers have promised that the county will receive between $1.2 and $1.8 million per year in fees.
Although the same documents are available for free in paper form at the courthouse, the Times contends that the documents and electronic service are part of the public record and therefore the county does not have the right to charge for the documents. (Times Mirror Co. v. The County of Los Angeles; Media Counsel: Rex Heinke, Los Angeles)