NEFAC Defends First Amendment Right of Public to Access Criminal Court Records

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition today argued against a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that limits public access to court records in criminal proceedings.

The ruling “impedes the public monitoring of the judicial system which is essential for the functioning of our democracy,” argued NEFAC and 47 media organizations and First Amendment advocates in an Oct. 26 amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case, brought by The Colorado Independent, could determine whether or not there is a First Amendment right to access criminal court records. In the brief — drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — amici argue that:

A First Amendment presumption of public access to judicial proceedings, alone, is not enough; a constitutional right of access to court records is necessary if the press is to offer the public an accurate account of systemic issues plaguing our justice system, and of individual criminal cases. By rejecting a First Amendment right of access to criminal court records, the Colorado Supreme Court jeopardizes the media’s ability to bring accurate and detailed reporting to the public.

NEFAC frequently files and joins amicus briefs addressing First Amendment and right-to-know issues. Most recently, the coalition argued against unreasonable censorship of prison inmate mailargued for the release of the jury list in a Rhode Island murder case, called for more transparency within privately-managed prisons, demanded immediate access to civil court documents, argued against the sealing of court records in a high-profile civil rights case, and called for public access to private email accounts when used for government business.

Learn more about NEFAC’s work here.

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 Robertson Foundation, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.