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Media Want Motions Open in Bryant Case

November 26, 2003|Steve Henson

In the opening exchange of what experts expect to be a protracted pretrial battle, media attorneys said Tuesday that efforts by the prosecutor in the Kobe Bryant case to seal court filings are "plainly overbroad."

The attorneys, representing a group of media organizations that includes The Times, asked Judge Terry Ruckriegle to reject arguments made by Eagle County (Colo.) Dist. Atty. Mark Hurlbert to keep out of public view motions leading up to Bryant's trial on a felony sexual assault charge.

Hurlbert's request that any "potential evidentiary motion" be kept under seal "is ill-defined and ambiguous and could result in the parties erring on the side of caution by filing all future pleadings under seal," media attorney Steve Zansberg wrote.

Citing the 1st Amendment and case law, Zansberg said court documents must be open to the public unless there is proof they would prejudice a fair trial. Also, such proof must be given for each document and the public must have an opportunity to object.

"At a minimum," Zansberg wrote, "any order by the court that authorizes the provisional filing of pleadings under seal be limited to motions that disclose ... a specific and narrowly defined category of information that is likely to interfere with a fair trial."

-- Steve Henson

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