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Fewer Newspapers Fighting for Open Access

The New York Times reports on yet another of the consequence of the tough economic situation for the newspaper industry: Fewer newspapers are fighting to open court proceedings. Without newspapers to fight the access battle, the burden falls to the public and litigants themselves.

NYT reporter Adam Liptak highlights the story of Georgia public defender Gerard Kleinrock, who is currently challenging the conviction of his client Eric Presley at the Supreme Court. Kleinrock argues that the trial judge erred in denying the public the right to observe jury selection in Presley's case. The trial judge had found that the courtroom was not large enough to accommodate both the public and potential jurors.

In his brief, Kleinrock emphasized the importance of recognizing a right of public access:

The days of powerful newspapers with ample legal budgets appear to be numbered ... Will underfunded bloggers be able to carry the financial burdens of opening our courtrooms?

Liptak suggests that if a seasoned press lawyer had been present at the time that the judge ruled, the result might have been different. A lawyer for a news organization may have been able to offer alternatives to closure that would have accommodated the defendants' interest in access and the court's interest in conducting the proceeding efficiently.

Are newspapers still critical to fighting the "access fight?" What's your view?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 31, 2009 at 04:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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