Friday, January 11, 2008

Testing Judicial Openness


When Vince Valvo, former editor of the Hartford Business Journal, filed a Freedom of Information complaint against the state’s Chief Court Administrator he never expected to win. In fact, he wanted to lose. While that sounds counterintuitive, Valvo’s attorney explained Thursday that the victory was in the way he lost.

Dan Klau of Pepe and Hazard said Thursday in a phone interview that his client needed to lose in order to get the court to reconsider a controversial Supreme Court decision on what documents the Judicial Branch considers open to the public.

In 2006, the Supreme Court voted 4-3 in favor of a Meriden Superior Court clerk who had rejected an attorney’s request for access to the docket sheet with the name, address, birth date, and next court date of a defendant. When the opinion was released Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said it was a “substantial departure from the state’s policy on open government.”

It was so much of a departure that then Acting Chief Supreme Court Justice David Borden, who disagreed with the majority opinion, formed a task force to explore the public’s access to the courts.

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