Bryan Cave First Amendment Litigators Bring Action in Vermont Federal Court on Behalf of Courthouse News Service

March 29, 2017

A Bryan Cave team of litigators, led by New York Senior Counsel William Hibsher, filed a complaint recently in Vermont on behalf of firm client Courthouse News Service (CNS) for injunctive and declaratory relief against the chief administrator of the Supreme Court of the State of Vermont, as well as the clerks of various Vermont county courts.

The complaint requests the court find the Vermont Rule of Civil Procedure and Vermont Rules for Public Access to Court Records, under which records of new civil actions may remain effectively sealed for as long as 60 days or more, to be unconstitutional. Also requested is an injunction barring enforcement of the rules as well as an order requiring clerks to provide prompt public access to all newly filed complaints.

The complaint was filed with the U.S. District Court, District of Vermont, on March 17. Hibsher was recently quoted in the Burlington Free Press on the significance of this case, stating: "Waiting several weeks for access to what may be a newsworthy civil complaint, which is of course a public document, means the news is most likely stale by the time you see it."

Bryan Cave has successfully managed similar litigations for CNS in California, New York and Texas, challenging the New York, Houston and Ventura Superior Court clerks’ withholding of access to civil complaints during administrative processing.

Bryan Cave’s litigation team for CNS in California and Texas has been led by San Francisco Partners Rachel Matteo-Boehm and Roger Myers, Counsel Jonathan Fetterly and Katherine Keating, and Associates Leila Knox and Goli Mahdavi. The litigation team in New York and Vermont includes Hibsher, Matteo-Boehm and New York Associates Jacquelyn Schell and Daniel Lewkowicz.