Judicial Access Task Force members met Thursday and developed guidelines and refined its timeline for its report to Supreme Court Justice David Borden. While there were still too many unanswered questions the task force seemed to agree openness was its goal.
Judge Jon Alander, co-chairman of one of the task forces three subcommittees said his committee is exploring what court records are currently closed and what other state courts and federal courts consider open. He said the group will also tackle what type of court records should be categorically excluded from court records. Alander said the subcommittee’s rolling recommendation was to add the word ‘open” to the judicial branch’s mission statement, but the task force tabled a vote on the change since there was no time for the all the members of the task force to review it. Attorney Aaron Bayer, co-chairman of the judicial proceedings subcommittee, said his group will investigate courtroom access in other states. He said the group will be looking closely at Massachusetts which has a panel of three judges and three journalists who are available 24/7 to make decisions on access to the courts or court documents. He said the subcommittee also discussed starting a pilot program that would allow cameras in the Supreme and Appellate Courts since those courts hear mostly legal arguments.Journal Inquirer reporter Heather Nann Collins said the issue of taking notes in court needs to be addressed immediately. In early May a Hartford Courant reporter was told by Superior Court Judge Wendy W. Susco that they couldn’t take notes in her courtroom. Judge William Lavery, chief court adminstrator, said Thursday that he investigated the incident and found at the reporter was blocking the doorway. Lavery said there’s a broad policy in the court system that notes are allowed to be taken. But, Collins countered that “it’s not a written policy.“The task force agreed to take up the issue. Meanwhile the legislature’s Judiciary Committee will meet June 27 to investigate retired Supreme Court Chief Justice William Sullivan’s decision to delay the court’s ruling in a Freedom of Information case. Sullivan has said he delayed the decision to help Justice Peter T. Zarella win the confirmation to replace him as chief justice. Click here for a schedule of the task force’s upcoming meetings.