Reporters Committee, CFOIC ask court to reject James Holmes’ motion to restrict access to pleadings

From Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition: Restricting access to court records in the Aurora movie theater shooting case would “serve no constructive purpose” and significantly impair the public’s understanding of issues of national importance involving violence and mental health, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argued Wednesday in a letter co-signed by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

The letter to Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos A. Samour, Jr., also signed by the Colorado Press Association, is in response to a motion filed last week by attorneys for suspect James Holmes that asks the court to seal all transcripts of proceedings in the case and to remove access to most pleadings from the “Cases of Interest” section of the court’s website, which gives the public direct access to court documents. The defendant’s motion, which asserts that easy access to pleadings in the case jeopardizes Holmes’ right to a fair trial, also asks for suppression of the register of actions.

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The letter says the “public interest at stake here is profound” because the Aurora theater shooting and other recent mass shootings have prompted a national dialogue on issues such as requiring mental-health background checks before gun purchases and the effectiveness of mental health systems in the United States. “These issues are not just local but national in scope. However, the proposed restrictions severely limit the ability of out-of-state reporters to effectively report on them and of members of the public to understand the court process.”

Visit Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition for more.

In addition, please see an article from The Gazette: A Colorado group that fights for openness in public proceedings is sounding off over a recent attempt by Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes to seal documents in his case.

“A heinous crime committed in a darkened movie theater that left 12 dead and hundreds injured and devastated should not result in the judicial process being shrouded in secrecy,” said Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. “We hope the judge will deny the defendant’s request and keep our courts open to public scrutiny and accountability.”

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Contending the documents are a matter of public record, the CFOIC argued that removing them from the state website would “overwhelm” clerks in Arapahoe County with documents requests by reporters. Click here to view documents under dispute.

Visit The Gazette for more.

The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition is a member of NFOIC. –eds