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Supreme Court declines to hear e-file case against Brown

Thursday, October 17, 2019
Chicago Daily law Bulletin
by Jordyn Reiland

The nation’s highest court this week decided not to take up a case filed by a California-based news outlet against Cook County Court Clerk Dorothy A. Brown regarding media access to e-filed civil lawsuits.

As a result, Courthouse News Service v. Dorothy Brown, No. 18-1230, will not be heard in Washington, D.C. Rather, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision finding the suit’s claims are best pursued at the state court level will stand.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday came about 11 months after a 7th Circuit panel rejected the lawsuit.

In November 2017, Courthouse News Service sued the court clerk’s office in federal court for allegedly withholding e-filed civil complaints from the media and public until after the documents have been processed and officially “accepted” for filing.

The news service sued seeking a way to access e-filed documents sooner.

In January 2018, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly granted the news service a preliminary injunction that gave Brown’s office 30 days to create a system where the media could gain immediate access to newly e-filed lawsuits.

According to in-office statistics, Brown has said she provides access to 90.9% of newly filed complaints within one business day from the date they are filed. Courthouse News has contended about 40% of e-filed complaints are not accessible on the same day they are filed.

The Daily Law Bulletin is among the news outlets that has access to newly filed complaints from the court clerk’s office, but it is not party to the lawsuit.

Brown appealed Kennelly’s order to the 7th Circuit and the panel determined Kennelly should not have gotten involved.

Courthouse News then filed a petition for certiorari, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Brian A. Sher, Chicago managing partner of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP who is lead counsel for the news service, declined to comment on the Supreme Court’s decision.

Brown said in a news release the decision was not just a victory for her office, but for circuit court clerks throughout the country.

“The Supreme Court’s decision further verifies the efficacy and fairness of our procedures,” Brown said. “This has been a long debate, but I feel that justice and fairness for all involved has prevailed through this process.”

Brown is represented by Assistant State’s Attorneys Paul S. Castiglione, Margaret S. Zilligen and Oscar S. Kpota.



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