News organizations across the nation back Indy’s open-records fight at U.S. Supreme Court

The Colorado Independent: Many of the nation’s biggest news organizations, some of its top legal scholars and a squadron of Colorado newsrooms have joined The Colorado Independent in its petition before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that seeks to protect the public’s First Amendment right to court records.

The case could determine the extent to which the public and the news media have access to court records in Colorado and possibly beyond.

Fifty six state and national media outlets and groups — including The Denver Post, NPR, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, BuzzFeed, Sinclair Broadcast Group and The New York Times — plus 21 First Amendment scholars from around the country backed The Independent by formally signing on to “friend of the court” briefs this week.

The briefs, known as amicus curiae, asked the high court to review a unanimous ruling in June by the Colorado Supreme Court that denied the nonprofit news outlet’s request to unseal court records related to prosecutorial misconduct in the capital case against Colorado death-row inmate Sir Mario Owens.

Four amici briefs were filed this week. They came from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the First Amendment Clinic at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic.

“This case is vital to Colorado journalism,” reads the ASU brief, which represented nine Colorado news organizations. “Access to criminal justice records in the state has reached an untenable point where suppression is routine and difficult to overcome, even though (the U.S. Supreme Court) has created a clear roadmap for access to the judicial process.”

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