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Reporters Committee urges state high court to overturn sealing order

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The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Student Press Law Center filed a brief in the Virginia…

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Student Press Law Center filed a brief in the Virginia Supreme Court today in support of an animal rights group’s efforts to unseal a civil court file in Fairfax County.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is suing businessman Kenneth Feld, owner of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, in Fairfax County for allegedly interfering with their operations.

Public access to information about the case was cut off when the trial judge unilaterally sealed the entire case file, despite U.S. Supreme Court and Virginia Supreme Court rulings that say such action violates the U.S. Constitution and Virginia law.

“It’s hard to imagine that a state court judge would unilaterally shut down access to a case in a state where there is such clear precedent that such an action is unlawful,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “In the extremely unlikely event that some documents or proceedings in this case need to be closed, there is a procedure that must be followed. This court ignored those requirements.”

The brief is online at: https://www.rcfp.org/news/documents/20030321_inrepeta.pdf