NEFAC, Maine Newsrooms Protest Excessive Fees for Judicial Records

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition and a group of news organizations recently called on the Maine Judicial Branch to stop charging excessive fees for electronically-filed records.

Such fees, the groups explained in a Jan. 20 letter, are a violation of state court rules and the First Amendment.

“These fees are excessive on their face in relation to the actual incremental cost of providing public access to documents that are already available over the internet to litigants,” the groups wrote, adding that the fees also “impair the ability of journalists to report on matters of public concern.”

Attorney Sigmund Schutz, a partner at Preti Flaherty and a member of NEFAC’s Board of Directors, wrote the letter on behalf of the coalition and media organizations.

In the letter, Schutz explained that Rule 14 of the Maine Rules of Electronic Court Systems requires that fees for public access be reasonable. The United States Constitution also prohibits the government from turning a profit by imposing fees as a condition to the exercise of First Amendment rights.

“These excessive fees constitute a real impediment to journalists trying to report on cases being litigated in the Business Court in particular, where all filings are electronic and where high-profile cases of public interest are often litigated,” Schutz explained. “Judicial dockets often feature hundreds or even thousands of pages of documents that an investigative reporter, or a curious member of the public, must read to understand what is happening in the case. These fees are untenable for journalists who need to conduct careful reviews of case files, for researchers and academics, or for concerned citizens.”

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. The coalition regularly drafts and joins advocacy letters in cases involving First Amendment freedoms and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, letters and statements can be found 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.

Leadership Circle donors include the Rhode Island Foundation, Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the Champa Charitable Foundation Fund, Connecticut Public and GBH-Boston.