NEFAC Calls for Immediate Access to Civil Court Complaints in Ninth Circuit

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition recently argued for the immediate release of civil court complaints, saying that “delay can result in a complete denial of meaningful access.”

“The First Amendment requires contemporaneous access to civil complaints upon their filing,” NEFAC and other open government advocates argued in a Jan. 29 amicus brief.

“In today’s news cycle, where stories build upon each other and are updated by the minute online,” the groups wrote, “it is important that the first news stories about a lawsuit be accurate and complete, with as much information as possible derived from official, primary sources.”

The brief — drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — was filed in Courthouse News Service v. Yamasaki, a Ninth Circuit case that involves the First Amendment right to timely access of newly filed civil complaints in Orange County Superior Court.

While the case is outside New England jurisdictions, NEFAC considers it one of significant importance. The issue of timely access to court documents is one faced by many New Englanders and an adverse ruling in the Ninth Circuit could affect how courts view the issue locally. NEFAC joined similar briefs in this case in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

NEFAC regularly files and joins amicus briefs in cases involving the First Amendment and the public’s right to know. The coalition recently argued for free access to police body camera footage in Vermont, Massachusetts public records in aggregate form, timely access to juror identities, the right to private emails of government officials when they pertain to public business, the freedom to record public police activity and the preservation of anti-SLAPP laws.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.