Court clerk ‘ can­not end- run the First Amend­ment’: judge

Brown is or­dered to pro­vide pub­lic ac­cess to elec­tron­i­cally filed suits

Chicago Sun-Times - - POLITICS - BYJONSEIDEL Staff Re­porter Email: jsei­del@ sun­times. com Twit­ter:@ Sei­delCon­tent

A fed­eral judge dou­bled down Tues­day on his or­der that Cook County Cir­cuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown pro­vide pub­lic ac­cess to new elec­tron­i­cally filed law­suits.

U. S. District Judge Matthew Ken­nelly or­dered Brown on Jan. 8 to pro­vide that ac­cess within 30 days. Since then, she has sig­naled she will ap­peal his or­der to the 7th U. S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals.

In the mean­time, she asked Ken­nelly to put his or­der on hold. On Tues­day, he shot down her ar­gu­ments that, among other things, his or­der would re­quire her to make pub­lic law­suits that are filed un­der seal.

Ken­nelly said that’s not the case, and that’s not the is­sue.

“What is ac­tu­ally afoot is a sys­tem, ef­fec­tively cre­ated by Brown her­self, in which all e- filed com­plaints are treated as hav­ing been filed un­der seal un­til Brown her­self clears them for pub­lic ac­cess,” Ken­nelly wrote.

The judge added: “Brown can­not end- run the First Amend­ment by cre­at­ing a sys­tem in which hy­po­thet­i­cal doubt re­gard­ing whether lit­i­gants com­ply with rules about redac­tion al­low her to ex­clude the pub­lic from ac­cess to ju­di­cial pro­ceed­ings un­til she is good and ready to pro­vide it.”

Lawyers rep­re­sent­ing Brown have said Ken­nelly’s or­der would re­quire “a sig­nif­i­cant up­grade” to her com­puter sys­tems, and they’ve said elec­tron­i­cally sub­mit­ted records “are not of­fi­cially ‘ filed’” un­til her of­fice de­ter­mines they do not con­tain doc­u­ments that shouldn’t be made pub­lic.

A Brown spokes­woman could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment. But later Tues­day, she filed a mo­tion with the court of ap­peals, again ask­ing to put the or­der on hold.

| RICH HEIN/ SUN- TIMES FILE

Cook County Cir­cuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown on Tues­day filed a mo­tion seek­ing to put the or­der to pro­vide law­suit ac­cess on hold.

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