The judicial branch’s Public Access Task Force, assembled in response to a Supreme Court decision that found the state’s courts have the right to deny the public access to certain court documents, meets for the first time this week. A group of 17 lawyers, journalists, and judges assembled by Supreme Court Justice David Borden will discuss public access to records 1:30 p.m. Thursday, May 25.
“The mission of the task force is to make recommendations for the maximum degree of public access to the courts, consistent with the needs of the courts in discharging their core functions of adjudicating and managing cases,” Borden said in a press release. “To that end, this task force is designed to foster constructive discussion and concrete solutions to matters of mutual concern for the courts, the media, the bar and the public. I am confident that the work of this task force will strengthen both the judicial system and the public’s confidence in it.“The task force is required to make recommendations to the court by mid-September. More than a month ago legislators said the court’s 4-3 decision would have a chilling effect on the state’s Freedom of Information policies. Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, has said the decision was a “substantial departure from the state’s policy on open government.” McDonald opined “the court got it exactly wrong on closing the door on this type of information.“Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, said the day the opinion was finally released that “In the future they could use this decision to say they don’t have to abide by our laws as members of the Judiciary branch.” But Lawlor said they will have to wait and see how the Judiciary Rules Committee hands down the policy to Superior Court clerks. Chief Justice William Sullivan, Justice Peter Zarella, Justice Richard Palmer, and Justice William Lavery, the Chief Court Administrator, voted to uphold the lower court’s decision to deny attorney Russell Collins access to the name, address, birth date, next court date, and information on whether the defendant had an attorney or was incarcerated. Justices Flemming Norcott, Justice Joette Katz, and Borden wrote the dissenting opinion. Click here to read the CTNewsjunkie story on the court’s decision.The task force chaired by Justice Palmer will also include:Chief Court Administrator William Lavery Judge Trial Referee Aaron Ment Appellate Court Judge Douglas Lavine Judge Patrick Clifford, chief administrative judge for criminal matters Judge Jon Alander, complex litigation judge in WaterburyJudge Julia DiCocco Dewey, chief administrative judge for family matters Judge Barbara Quinn, chief administrative judge for juvenile matters Judge Barry K. Stevens, Derby civil court judgeAlaine Griffin, reporter, Hartford Courant Zach Lowe, reporter, Stamford AdvocateHeather Nann Collins, reporter, Journal InquirerPatrick Sanders, Connecticut news editor, Associated Press Ken Margolfo, assignment manager, Fox 61, WTIC-TV Erin Cox, reporter, WTNH Television, News Channel 8 Attorney Alan Neigher of Byelas & Neigher, Westport Attorney Aaron Bayer of Wiggin and Dana, Hartford. William Cibes, former chancellor of the Connecticut State University system will serve as the public’s representative. The first panel meeting will be held in the Supreme Court building, 231 Capitol Ave., Hartford.