For a second time a federal appeals court has reinstated a legal news service’s challenge of the Ventura County courts’ 34-day lag time in making new case filings available to the media.
This time the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the case by Courthouse News (CHN) to be reassigned to a new judge, taking it away from Judge Manuel Real.
First Judge Real ruled he would abstain from hearing the case but in 2014 the 9th Circuit reversed saying there was an “important First Amendment interest at stake.”
CHN argued that Ventura denied timely access to court filings, with some delays stretching to 34 days. Contrast that with many other courts around the country that provide same-day access to new case filings.
Courthouse News provides daily online news reports and copies of case documents to the public and to the legal community.
On the second try, Real narrowed the legal question to same-day access and held that as First Amendment right of access does not mandate same-day access to civil complaints.
“The district court erred by evaluating the question of same-day access as a purely legal question divorced from he legal framework discussed in our prior opinion, and from the allegations in CNS’s complaint which allege delays in access to civil complaints exceeding 33 days from filing,” the panel noted.
In reversing for a second time, the panel said the case should be reassigned to a new judge – not for bias on Real’s part, but because the judge may have trouble putting aside “previously expressed views” found to be wrong.
Judges John Noonan, Kim Wardlaw and Mary Murguia signed the order in the non-precedential memorandum decision.
Case: Courthouse News v. Planet, No. 14-56444